Number of Spaniards emigrating hits new high since crisis began

Total of 50,844 people left the country to go and work abroad during the first quarter of 2015

A protest in Madrid of young people with the slogan “Youths seeking a future.”
A protest in Madrid of young people with the slogan “Youths seeking a future.”ÁLVARO GARCIA

The incipient economic growth finally being seen in Spain’s economy is not yet enough to stem the flow of Spaniards leaving the country to seek work abroad.

In the first half of 2015, 50,844 Spanish citizens left the country, representing a 30% rise from the same period in 2014, according to figures released on Friday by Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE).

The exodus of foreign nationals has been considerably reduced this year, after being twice as high in 2013

By comparison, less than half that number, 23,078, returned to Spain after living in another country.

The figures confirm what appears to be an unstoppable trend. The number of departures in the first half of the year is higher than in all of 2010, when Spain was in the middle of the crisis and 40,157 Spaniards decided to try their luck in a foreign country.

Meanwhile, 134,143 foreign citizens moved to Spain in the first six months of the year – most from Romania, Morocco and Italy – while 113, 762 foreigners who were already residing here decided to leave. This yields a positive number of 20,380 new foreign residents in Spain.

Italian, Ukrainian, French and Chinese communities are the fastest-growing in Spain.

The exodus of foreign nationals has been considerably reduced this year, after being twice as high in 2013, when 233,320 people moved back home in the first half of the year.

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The overall picture shows that Spain is still a country of emigrants, but that incoming and outgoing flows are more balanced out than ever: the difference between those who left and those who came is 7,385, the lowest figure since 2009.

But Spain continues to lose population. The total number of residents shrank by 26,501 individuals and was 46,423,064 on July 1, 2015, nearly 0.06 percent less than at the beginning of the year.

Population evolution depends on three main factors: births, deaths and migratory flows. The number of births had been higher than the number of deaths for the last 16 years, but the trend was reversed in 2015.

A higher death rate, coupled with net emigration, yields a country that is losing population and with a higher average age.

“The long-term trend is towards an ageing population and a smaller population,” says Pau Miret, a researcher at the Demography Studies Center in Barcelona. “It could only be avoided through young immigration, but that will not happen until the job market really recovers and we stop seeing these ridiculously high unemployment figures.”

Spain, where the fertility rate is 1.27 (compared with 1.40 in Germany and 1.99 in France), is facing future economic and political consequences, such as difficulty financing the pensions system and a smaller representation in European institutions.

The INE is forecasting that Spain will have 45.8 million residents in 2024 and 40.9 million in 2064.

A higher death rate, coupled with net emigration, means Spain is losing population and has a rising average age

“Demographic ageing is a major challenge, because the welfare system is structured on the basis of inter-generation solidarity, and the numerical relationship between contributors and recipients is key to that sustainability,” explains a demographer at the Center for Sociology Studies’ Human and Social Sciences Center.

Broken down by regions, only five out of Spain’s 17 “autonomous communities” registered a population increase in the first half of 2015. In absolute terms, Madrid grew the most with 15,552 new residents, but compared with the existing population it was the Balearics that saw the largest increase, of 4.2 percent.

Castilla y León lost the largest amount of residents: 12,178.

English version by Susana Urra.

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