POPULATION

Spain’s record immigration levels are consigned to the past

Economic crisis sees large numbers of Latin Americans heading home

An Ecuadorian immigrant prepares to fly home from Spain after losing her job. / CARLOS ROSILLO (EL PAÍS)

Whereas once it was fueled by a huge influx of immigrants attracted by offers of work, the population of Spain has stopped growing. In 2011, the country only gained 22,497 inhabitants, bringing the total to 47,212,990 people. And the number of foreigners in the country has fallen for the first time: there are 40,447 fewer than in 2010.

Spain’s immigrant population now stands at 12.1 percent of the population, a tenth of a percentage point less than in 2010, totaling 5,771,040. That’s according to advance population figures released Thursday by the National Statistics Institute (INE).

The drop in Spain’s immigrant population is the first that the INE has recorded since it began measuring this particular statistic in 1998. There is no reliable data before that year, according to an INE spokesperson.

It appears the economic crisis is the underlying cause of these changes to the demography of Spain, as experts have been predicting for some time now. The total population has stayed more or less stable, after years of record growth. The slowdown was first noted in 2010, when the number of inhabitants grew just 0.4 percent. The 2011 increase is negligible in percentage terms.

Romanians make up the highest proportion of Spain’s immigrant population, with 895,970 registered in the country — a 3.5 percent increase on 2010. Moroccans come next, with 783,137, up 1.2 percent on the previous year. Then come Britons, with 397,535, a 1.6-percent increase on 2010, followed by Ecuadorians, at 306,380 — a 10.4-percent fall on the previous year.

A number of other nationalities have also seen marked falls in population levels in Spain, headed by Argentineans, down 10.2 percent; Bolivians, 7.2 percent; Peruvians, 8.1 percent; and Poles and Italians, both two percent.

The biggest increases in immigration are to be found among the Pakistani population, which is up 13.5 percent to 79,626, and the Chinese, which has risen 5.2 percent to 175,813.

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