Population shrinks, as Spaniards move abroad and foreigners leave

Four-year downward trend continues, according to latest figures from National Statistics Institute

People at Madrid's Barajas Adolfo Suárez airport.
People at Madrid's Barajas Adolfo Suárez airport.CARLOS ROSILLO

Spain keeps losing population, and there are two major reasons for it: increasing numbers of Spaniards are moving abroad, and there are fewer foreign residents in the country.

On January 1, 2016 there were 99,439 fewer residents in Spain than a year earlier, according to preliminary figures released on Thursday by the National Statistics Institute (INE).

The registered resident population of Spain is currently 46.5 million, a 0.2% decrease in the annual rate.

Births and deaths

El País

Last year, for the first time since the 1930s, Spain recorded more deaths than births in the first half of the year, according to preliminary INE figures. This trend is expected to continue, and will play an increasingly large role in dwindling population figures.

The figures are based on local resident registration, known as the municipal padrón. Councils regularly send in updated figures to the INE for statistical purposes.

The latest numbers confirm a downward trend that began in 2012, with the economic crisis in full swing.

Foreigners, who represent 9.9% of the registered population, fell by 128,372 individuals. Of these, the main nationalities were Ecuador, Britain and Germany. The INE notes that in 2015, around 123,000 foreign nationals were granted Spanish citizenship.

To this downward flow must be added the Spaniards who are moving away in search of better job opportunities. Since 2009, there has been a 56.6% rise in the number of Spanish citizens living abroad, according to INE data released in March.

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There are 4.6 million registered foreigners living in Spain, of whom nearly 1.8 million are European Union citizens. The largest communities are Romanian, British and Italian. Moroccans make up the largest non-EU group in Spain, followed by the Chinese and the Ecuadorians.

Statistics show that the most heavily populated regions of Spain are Andalusia, Catalonia, Madrid and the Valencia region. At the other end of the spectrum, La Rioja, Cantabria and Navarre continue to be the most sparsely populated areas in the country.

There were population declines across all regions over the course of last year, except for Madrid, the Balearic Islands and Catalonia, as well as the exclave cities of Ceuta and Melilla.

English version by Susana Urra.

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