Population of Spain

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The resident population in Spain

In recent years the resident population has unexpectedly begun to recover. At the beginning of the 1990s, demographers and other experts announced that the population showed a tendency to decline and that the figure of 40 million inhabitants would therefore not be reached in the short term. However, the massive influx of foreigners has overturned these projections and the resident population in Spain has not only broken through the 40 million threshold but has continued to rise steeply during this first decade of the 21st century.

Based on data from 1 January 2010, the registered population in Spain is over 46.9 million; the number of registered foreign nationals is 5.7 million, of which 2.3 million are European Union citizens.

Population by sex at 1 November 2011

Both sexesTotal
Spanish nationals41.563.443
Foreign nationals5.252.473
Spanish nationals20.372.386
Foreign nationals2.731.917
Spanish nationals21.191.057
Foreign nationals2.520.556

Source: National Statistical Institute. Data drawn from the latest annual census published by the National Statistical Institute (Instituto Nacional de Estadística, INE), available as at 31 December 2014

According to the municipal register, the total number of residents in Spain as at 1 January 2010 was 46,951,532 which represents an increase of 205,725 people on the figures for 1 January 2009. Of this total, 41,242,592 corresponded to Spanish nationals and 5,708,940 (or 12.2% of the total number of registered residents) were foreign nationals.

In 2009, the number of registered Spanish nationals experienced a net increase of 145,456 people (0.4%), while the number of foreign nationals grew by 60,269 (1.1%). Of the latter, those belonging to the EU-27 rose by 73,289 to a total of 2,346,505 residents, while the number not belonging to the EU fell by 13,020 people (to stand at 3,362,425).

Population by gender and age

According to provisional data from 1 January 2010, 49.5% of registered residents are male and 50.6% are female. Among Spanish nationals, 49% are male and 51% are female. There are more women among Spanish nationals (51%), whereas there are more men among immigrants (52.5%).

By age, 15.6% of the population is under 16, 42.6% is between 16 and 44, and 41.8% is 45 or over.

Population at 1 November 2011

AgeSpanish nationalsForeign nationals
Under 166.704.120788.761
16 to 4415.980.3553.227.314
45 to 6411.042.777956.239
Over 657.836.187280.158

Source: National Statistical Institute.

By nationality, the data from the 16-44 age group should be highlighted: whereas registered Spanish nationals in this age group account for 39.9% of the total, this percentage rises to 62% in the case of registered foreigners.

The resident population by autonomous region

The autonomous regions that experienced the highest population increases between 1 January 2009 and 1 January 2010 were Madrid (up by 58,567 people), Andalusia (50,920) and Catalonia (29,461).

On the other hand, population figures dropped in three autonomous regions: Castile and Leon (-7,806 people), the Principality of Asturias (-1,180 people) and Aragon (-54 people).

Total population by autonomous community. Change from 2001 to 2011

Region2011 Census2001 CensusChange (%)
Balears, Illes1.100.503841.66930,8%
Murcia, Región de1.462.1281.197.64622,1%
Comunidad Valenciana5.009.9314.162.77620,4%
Castilla - La Mancha2.106.3311.760.51619,6%
Madrid, Comunidad de6.421.8745.423.38418,4%
Rioja, La321.173276.70216,1%
Navarra, Comunidad Foral de640.129555.82915,2%
País Vasco2.185.3932.082.5874,9%
Castilla y León2.540.1882.456.4743,4%
Asturias, Principado de1.075.1831.062.9981,1%

Source: National Statistical Institute

In relative terms, the greatest population increases occurred in Melilla (3.5%) and Ceuta (2.4%), as well as in the Region of Murcia, the Autonomous Region of Madrid, the Autonomous Region of Navarre and the Balearic Islands (all by 0.9%).

The greatest population drop in relative terms took place in Castile and Leon (-0.3%).

Distribution of the foreign population by autonomous region

The proportion of foreign citizens is 12.2% of the total resident population in Spain, according to data from the municipal registers at 1 January 2010.

Foreign population by autonomous region

RegionPopulation - Census 2011Population - Census 2001Absolute changeRelative change% Foreign nationals - as a proportion to total population% Foreign nationals - as a proportion to total foreign nationals
Castilla-La Mancha215.46940.668174.801429,8%10,2%4,1%
País Vasco141.94731.168110.779355,4%6,5%2,7%
Castilla y León163.26037.674125.586333,3%6,4%3,1%
Asturias, Principado de47.71113.25434.457260,0%4,4%0,9%
Comunidad Valenciana756.772217.673539.099247,7%15,1%14,4%
Rioja, La44.12112.86531.256243,0%13,7%0,8%
Murcia, Región de226.34369.556156.787225,4%15,5%4,3%
Balears, Illes222.12068.825153.295222,7%20,2%4,2%
Navarra, Comunidad Foral de65.32324.27441.049169,1%10,2%1,2%
Madrid, Comunidad de945.252366.096579.156158,2%14,7%18,0%

Source: National Statistical Institute

The regions with the highest proportion of foreign nationals are the Balearic Islands (21.9%), Valencia (17.3%) and Madrid (16.6%). By contrast, those with the lowest proportion of foreign nationals are Extremadura (3.5%), Galicia (3.9%) and Asturias (4.5%).

In absolute terms, the regions that experienced the greatest increases of foreign nationals in 2009 were Andalusia (23,195), Madrid (7,489) and the Basque Country (6,364). On the other hand, the number of foreign residents fell in the Region of Valencia (-4,718), La Rioja (-589), Aragon (-123) and Castile and Leon (-44).

In relative terms, the largest foreign population increases occurred in Melilla (16.8%), Ceuta (12.5%) and the Basque Country (4.8%), while the largest decreases took place in La Rioja (-1.3%) and the Region of Valencia (-0.5%).

Distribution of the foreign population by nationality

The number of foreign residents in Spain belonging to the EU-27 is 2,346,515. Of these, the largest group is made up of Rumanian citizens (829,715), followed by citizens from the United Kingdom (387,226) and Germany (195,579).

Among non-EU foreign nationals, Moroccan citizens form the largest group (746,715), followed by Ecuadoreans (395,069) and Colombians (289,296).

Población extranjera por países (Comparativa 2001-2011)

NationalityPopulation - Census 2011Population - Census 2001Absolute increaseRelative increaseivo (%)
Reino Unido312.09894.862217.236229,0%
Rep. Dominicana91.35331.58259.771189,3%
Resto de países1.027.952341.344686.608201,1%

Source: National Statistical Institute

In 2009, the number of Rumanian citizens experienced the largest increase, rising by 30,823 people. Further significant growth occurred in the numbers of citizens from Morocco (28,705), the United Kingdom (11,523) and China (9,128). The largest decreases in terms of nationality were recorded by Ecuadorean citizens (26,357 fewer), Bolivians (20,079 fewer) and Argentineans (11,713 fewer).

Among the nationalities with the largest number of registered residents, the greatest relative increases correspond to citizens from Senegal (8.5%), China (6.2%) and Italy (5%).

By country groups, citizens from the EU-27 form the largest collective and represent 41.1% of the total foreign population. They are followed by citizens from South America, who account for 26.6% of all foreign nationals.

Población extranjera por sexo y grupos de países

NacionalidadBoth sexesMaleFemale
Foreign, EU member state2.084.9161.092.569992.346
Foreign, non-EU member state220.90495.944124.959
Foreign, African country1.063.194660.910402.285
Foreign, North American country52.37723.66828.709
Foreign, South American, Central or Caribbean country1.479.852653.549826.303
Foreign, Asian country348.284203.603144.680
Foreign, Australasian and stateless persons2.9461.6741.273

Source: National Statistical Institute

As regards the distribution of the foreign population by gender, the proportion of women is higher among Latin American nationalities. However, there are more men among most of the African and Asian nationalities.

Population projections

A knowledge of the future population, broken down at least by gender and age, is clearly vital for rational decision-making in a number of fields, including education (at the various stages), health (and medical specialties corresponding to the age of individuals), pensions, etc. This knowledge is also necessary for planning the consumption of all kinds of goods and services.

Population censuses, which are conducted every ten years, provide insufficient information about the population in the intervening periods. However, they do provide a starting point for decisions of the abovementioned nature in that they shed light on the population of a country and its regions, in keeping with a series of variables, at a given point in time. The breakdowns by gender and age are usually taken as the starting point for calculating the future population with the same breakdown information.

Life expectancy in Spain

YearsAt birthAt age 65
Both sexesMaleFemaleBoth sexesMaleFemale

Source: National Statistical Institute

Bearing in mind that the population at a given point in time is the result of an evolution experienced in the past by its various components (mortality rate, fertility rate and migrations into and out of the country), a census can be used to predict the future population based on the hypothetical evolution of the same three components.

As a result of the sharp increase in the immigration figures for Spain, the projections calculated on the basis of the Population Census of 1991 quickly became outdated and had to be reviewed.

The population breakdowns by gender and age that resulted from the 2001 Census provided the population base or starting point for new projections.

However, any consideration about the future population of Spain must take into account the fact that the broad variety of factors influencing the evolution of immigration figures implies a significant degree of uncertainty about future arrivals and departures. This means that the projections are actually possible scenarios, i.e. the results obtained illustrate the consequences of the hypotheses on which they are based on the growth and distribution by age of the population.

Hence, as a first scenario, the net influx of immigrants into Spain is predicted to continue its recent trend until 2010, after which it is expected to level off. The total number of immigrants entering Spain during the period 2007-2059 is expected to rise to 14.6 million.

The most outstanding characteristic in the evolution of the population in Spain is its progressive ageing. This process is primarily due to the sharp and sustained decline in the fertility rate, while increased life expectancy is a second influential factor. Although the massive influx of foreign nationals can slow this process down, it cannot stop it.