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Spain's population highest-ever at 47.1 million – thanks to immigration
By thinkSPAIN Team Fri, Jan 10, 2020
OFFICIAL figures are in for Spain's population as at the start of 2020 – and the country has begun a new decade with its largest headcount ever before.
At 47.1 million, this is the highest ever, and the first time the nation has had more than 47 million people living in it.
This is largely thanks to immigration, according to data from the National Institute of Statistics (INE), given that the birth rate is currently at its lowest since records began in 1941.
The figures are actually only valid up to the middle of 2019, since the exact numbers up to the end of the year are still being calculated, but in the first six months of last year, the population rose by a total of 163,336.
Net migration was up at nearly 210,000, although deaths exceeded births by just over 45,000.
In the first six months of last year, 169,269 babies were born, but they were not enough to 'replace' the 214,218 people who died, giving a difference of 45,002.
But net migration – new immigrants versus those who left the country – was in positive figures, at 209,097.
A total of 348,625 new arrivals from foreign countries were recorded, whilst a total of 139,528 people – Spaniards and foreigners – left.
This is the highest positive net migration figure since 2008, the first year in which data were collected for this phenomenon, and the year in which the financial crisis began.
Rising immigration is nearly always a sign that a country's economy and job market is becoming more healthy, whilst rising emigration tends to show that, financially, a nation is doing less well, so increasing immigration is, in almost all cases – except in countries bordering conflict zones, which absorb the majority of refugees – positive news for the health of a given territory.
Brits are among these new foreign residents – although the threat of Brexit may be leading some British nationals to opt to return to the UK as a precaution, many are choosing to move abroad to escape any possible negative effects of the country's departure from the European Union.
As an example, the cosmopolitan coastal town of Dénia in the north of the province of Alicante has reported that Brits are now its largest foreign national community for the first time since the Civil War.
At 2.51% of its population of just under 44,000, totalling 1,104 residents, British nationals in Dénia have knocked their German counterparts into second place, at 1,068 – and not because Germans are leaving, but because more UK citizens are arriving.
Overall, 6,049 British nationals left Spain in the first six months of last year – but relatively few, compared with the 9,396 Moroccans and 16,525 Romanians who left.
Once the UK officially leaves the EU at the end of January, the real effects of its departure will start to be seen on Spain's Brit population, but anecdotal evidence points to the fact that many UK nationals are seeking to bring their long-term plans of retiring to, or working in, Mediterranean countries forward, in case they find it is more difficult to do so later on once Brexit is consummated.
After several consecutive years of population decline, Spain has been growing in resident numbers annually since 2015 – always a sign, in first-world nations, that the country's economic health is improving.
Of these, just over five million are foreigners.
The total number of non-Spaniards is 5,023,279, although this does not include immigrants who have since taken Spanish citizenship; with more and more Brits expressing their intention to do this after Brexit, the actual number of foreigners, especially UK nationals, could decline, on paper, in the next few years, but purely because more of them have Spanish passports and are no longer counted as immigrants.
The Spanish national population fell in the first half of 2019 by 19,737, largely because of the death rate exceeding the birth rate – the net negative birth-death figure, at 67,195, was not compensated for by the net migration increase of 3,419 among Spanish nationals, nor the 44,654 from other countries who acquired Spanish passports.
For the first time since the housing and construction crisis saw huge swathes of Latin Americans returning home as the work which brought them to Spain dried up, Colombians are on the rise – an increase of 27,920 was reported last year – although Ecuadorians, once one of Spain's most numerous foreign communities, continued to decline, down by 1,651.
Venezuelans, largely as a result of the turbulent political climate in the South American Caribbean country – leading to many opting to emigrate, or even becoming refugees – are more numerous in Spain now, with an increase of 24,238 in the 'mother country'.
Moroccans continue to be Spain's largest foreign community, thanks to its geographical proximity and historical and cultural ties, with an additional 20,627 reported as living in Spain in the first half of 2019.
Romanians reduced in number by 964, but continue to be the largest European Union national group.
Venezuelans increased in percentage by 18.1%; those from Hondurás by 15.4%; from Colombia by 14%, and those from Ecuador, Romania and Bulgaria declined by 1.2%, 0.1% and 0.1% respectively.
Overall, those moving from abroad to settle in Spain rose by 21.8% year on year, although 11.1% of them – 38,751 out of 348,625 – were Spanish nationals, either born abroad and moving to Spain for the first time, or returning migrants.
In terms of size of foreign groups, Romanians, followed by Moroccans, then Brits, are statistically the largest, in that order.
Population numbers went up in 13 of Spain's 17 autonomously-governed regions – the Balearic Islands led the growth at 0.87%, followed by Madrid (0.66%) and the Canary Islands (0.61%, whilst the four regions where numbers went down were the land-locked western region of Extremadura (by 0.25%), the northern coastal region of Asturias (by 0.22%), and the centre-northern plains of Castilla y León (by 0.2%).
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