A couple of years ago we wondered on this blog whether Spain’s unprecedented population decline would continue. Today we can report that yes, it has continued, but at a much slower rate. According to The Local news:

“There were 46.4 million residents in the country as of the first of January, a drop of 72,335, or 0.16 percent, from the same time last year, according to figures from the National Statistics Institute released on Thursday.”

This is not because of a falling birth rate; in fact births were up 0.1 percent last year (the first time this figure has risen in five years), but because more people are leaving Spain than are entering the country. 102,000 more people left the country than arrived last year and not all of them are foreigners returning home; many Spainiards are also heading overseas for better opportunities:

“Nearly 79,000 Spanish nationals left Spain last year while just over 41,000 returned to the country.”

The economy can largely be blamed for these figures: although Spain’s economy is officially growing, the Spanish unemployment rate is still the highest in the EU after Greece (for how much longer will we be able to write those words??) at a touch under 25 percent.

Furthermore, there is some serious doubt as to whether these figures are correctly measuring the scope of emigration. There appears to be some evidence that the Government is cooking the books:

“Associations representing people who have left Spain questioned the figures for the number of people who have left the country, accusing the conservative government of downplaying the figures.

One group, Marea Granate, said it estimates that the number of Spaniards who left Spain was actually ten times higher than the figure provided by the statistics office.

It said it had compiled figures for the number of Spaniards who registered with the social security system of just ten nations last year and the figure came to 89,209 — higher than the statistics office’s figure for the total number of Spaniards who left last year.

Marea Granate gave Uruguay as an example. While the statistics office said 668 Spaniards moved to the Latin American country last year, it said officials in Uruguay tallied the arrival of 6,462 Spaniards.

‘The Popular Party government constantly minimises the real emigration figures,’ it said in a statement.”

I’m not entirely sure why the Spanish Government would want to do that, although as we saw last week with the case of Nigeria, we should probably treat official population figures with a degree of scepticism.

At least the Spanish will be happy to know that the Brits are still the third-largest foreign group in the country despite their numbers dropping 2 percent to 303,776. Oh well, we must all be thankful for small mercies…

Marcus Roberts is a Senior Researcher at the Maxim Institute in Auckland, New Zealand, and was co-editor of the former MercatorNet blog, Demography is Destiny. Marcus has a background in the law, both...