With an unbelievably bad economic outlook (isn’t youth unemployment over 60%) is it any surprise that foreigners are leaving Spain in droves to seek greener pastures? With a fertility rate of around 1.4, Spain has to rely on immigration to keep its population stable (let alone growing).  Luckily for Spain’s demographic future, it had been able to attract large numbers of immigrants. In January 2011, there were 5.7 million foreign residents in Spain (out of population of around 47 million).  The largest national groups of immigrants came from Morocco, Romania, Columbia and Ecuador.   

But with the ongoing economic malaise in Spain, the number of foreign residents has started to drop. According to the BBC, 216,000 foreign residents left Spain in 2012. These losses were in part replaced by the increase of 10,000 native Spaniards, but overall the Spanish population declined by 206,000 people to 47.1 million.  The loss of 216,000 foreign residents do not include the large numbers of Spaniards who have left the country in search of work but still remain in the census figures.  This is the first time since the regular census began (albeit only 20 years ago) that Spain’s population fell and the reason for it can be laid largely at the door of the economic situation:

“The figures show that the ongoing economic crisis has reversed the country’s rapid population growth in the decade before the financial crisis erupted in 2008.

The bursting of the property bubble and high unemployment levels compounded the situation, forcing many economic migrants from South America and Eastern Europe to leave the country.

‘Spain is less attractive because there are no jobs,’ Albert Esteve of the Barcelona Centre for Demographic Studies told Spain’s National Radio.”

I wonder if this trend will continue in Spain. With little economic good news, will immigrants be encouraged to make Spain their new home? If they don’t, then Spain’s non-existent natural demographic growth will be unable to be masked by immigration. Can we add Spain to the list of Western countries that will slide demographically in the years ahead? (I’m looking at you Germany, Italy and Japan…)

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...