Spain’s shrinking population

Rafael Puyol. Vicepresident. IE Foundation

30 October 2012

The crisis is taking Spain back to the times when it was a country of emigration. The result is that we are losing talent that has cost us a great deal to educate. 


The estimated figures for the Spanish population that were recently published by Spain’s National Institute for Statistics are not good news. Although it is only logical that we rely on economic outcomes to gauge the depth of a crisis, we seldom stop to think that demographic trends provide further key markers.

First, we are losing population. Between October 1 of 2011 and October 1 of 2012, we lost 5,000 people. That may not seem like much, but what is important is that it has put a stop to previous growth. Second, our birth rate is going down. Each year fewer children are born than in the previous year, which further exacerbates the Spain’s already low birth rate. Third, there has been a shift in balance in terms of migrations.

Throughout history Spain had been a country of emigrants, until, that is, we became an immigration zone at the end of the last century up until 2009. We are now rewriting Spain’s emigration chapter to the tune of over 50,000 emigrants in 2011. These include previous immigrants that have had no alternative but to pack up their belongings and disappointment and return to their country poor, without having realized their expectations. But they also include Spaniards who never imagined that they would one day have to make such a journey. Last year some 63,000 Spaniards failed to find work in the country’s battered labor market.

The figure may not be as high as it has been in the past, but it has reversed the trend that prevailed until recently of being a country that receives immigrants, and it also affects highly skilled people, at least in part. We are losing a part of our talent that cost us a great deal of time and money to educate. And that is bad for a country for which talent is the only hope for exiting the crisis.



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