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Growing number of foreigners drives Spain's population rise

Conor Faulkner
Conor Faulkner - [email protected]
Growing number of foreigners drives Spain's population rise
Photo: Pixabay.

According to recent census data, foreigners are boosting population numbers in Spain to record levels.

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Spain is home to more people than ever.

According to census data from Spain's National Institute of Statistics (INE), the total number of people living in Spain was 47,475,420, as registered on the padrón on January 1st 2022.

This figure means Spain's population is the highest it has ever been, after increasing by 90,313 people compared to a year earlier, an increase of 0.19 percent. 

READ ALSO: Spain’s over 65s exceed 20 percent of the population for the first time

This growth represents a recovery from the decline of 2020, a year marked by a surge in deaths during to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This recovery, the figures suggest, is mainly born from a growing foreign population, which increased by 102,784 people to 5,542,932 and accounts for 11.7 percent of the total, a proportion of the Spanish population not seen in the INE data since 2013.

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Increasing foreigners

Much of this population growth has been driven by foreigners.

A decade ago, the percentage of registered foreigners in Spain was 12.1 percent, a figure that fell to 9.8 percent in 2017, which was the lowest figure in the last decade.

The remaining native population, all 41,932,488 Spanish nationals, decreased by 12,471 people compared to the previous year.

Age profiles

The average overall age registered on the padrón is 44.1 years, with the average age of Spaniards being slightly older, at 45 years old, and that of foreigners, 37.1 years old. EU citizen foreigners in Spain are in the middle of the two, with an average of 39.6 years old.

Among the large foreign national groups in Spain, the highest average ages are, perhaps unsurprisingly, those from northern European nations that have large retired communities in Spain, such as Britons (54.1 years), Germans (50) and French (43).

At the other end of the spectrum, the foreign nationals with the lowest average age are people from Honduras (30.4 years), Pakistan (31.1) and Morocco (32).

Largest migrant groups

Of the roughly 5.5 million foreigners in Spain, the number that are EU citizens are around 1.6 million. Of these EU citizens in Spain, the Romanians are the biggest group, with 623,097, followed by the Italians (273,889) and Germans (115,099).

Of the non-European foreigners resident in Spain, Moroccans (883,243), Colombians (314,679) and Britons (293,171) are the biggest groups.

Looking ahead

This trend of a growing foreign population seems set to continue into the future, and it may well prove pivotal to Spain's medium to long-term future.

According to projections released by the INE, the Spanish population is set to undergo some big demographic changes in the coming years.

Taking a broad stroke view of the statistics, Spanish society is set to get older and will be made up of more immigrants in the future, with the INE figures predicting that Spain will gain over 4 million (4,236,335) people by 2037, with the population set to reach 51 million. That represents an increase of 8.9 percent.

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Population growth is then anticipated to slow slightly, and by 2072, in 50 years’ time, the Spanish population is projected to reach 52.9 million, an increase of 5.45 million from 2022 figures.

The estimated population growth is predicted to be driven largely by inward migration. If INE models are accurate, this would mean that the Spanish-born population will see a steady decline and fall from 84.5 percent, the proportion of the population currently, to 63.5 percent within 50 years.

To put that statistic in other words, by 2072 36.5 percent of people resident in Spain, a little over one in three, will have be born in another country.

Spain's combination of an ageing population, declining birth rates and high unemployment among young people mean that this influx in foreign labour (and crucially, social security payments) will be crucial in keeping Spain's pension pot topped-up in the future.

READ ALSO: Spain has third most generous pension compared to salary in Europe

Spain's working-age population is set to decline, according to projections. The Spanish population between 20 and 64 years of age, which in 2022 was 60.7 percent of the total, is projected to drop to just 53.1 percent by 2052. 

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