Shortage of Spanish retirement homes increases every year

by Lorraine Williamson
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MADRID – Spain has a shortage of more than 75,000 places in retirement homes. This is according to a recent report by the Association of Directors and Managers of Social Services, based on figures from the Instituto de Mayores y Servicios Sociales (IMSERSO) and published by the Spanish newspaper Europa Press.  

According to the report, at the end of 2020, there were 5,529 residential homes in Spain. That is 13 fewer than the previous year, of which 1,451 were public (16 more than the previous year) and 4,078 private (29 fewer than before the pandemic). The number of places in these homes was 389,677. This was ‘only 643 more than a year earlier’.  

Yearly growing shortage 

According to the Association of Directors and Managers of Social Services, the shortage of places is ‘growing every year’. These numbers are based on the World Health Organisation‘s recommended ratio of 5%. Specifically, this means that there should be five places for every 100 people over 65. In 2014, there were still 53,103 places short of this standard. In the past year, this shortfall increased to 75,699 places.  

The report continues, ‘as many as 62,000 residential places’ would be needed immediately for people with severe dependency (class II) or very severe dependency (class III).  This is given the current demand.

According to IMSERSO’s official November 2021 data, there are 91,729 people labelled class II and III on the waiting list. In addition, 67,000 persons are awaiting assessment for probably one of these categories. That brings the total number of waiting persons to 158,729.  

The association estimates 40% would like a residential facility in a public or subsidised house or in an attached facility. Hence the prognosis is that around 63,000 residential places would be needed to meet the waiting list demand alone.  

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Differences per region 

The report shows that the autonomous regions of Andalucia, Valencia and Galicia have the largest shortage of places. This relates to 30,236, 22,860 and 14,331 respectively. Meanwhile, five regions have a surplus of places, with Castilla y León standing out with 17,541.  

Another conclusion of the report is that almost two out of three retirement homes are publicly funded. This represents 63.2% of the total, which includes places in public retirement centres, places in private centres and places funded by care-related benefits. This percentage is rising slowly, assuming a share of 2.65 over-65s per 100 inhabitants.  

The regions with the highest proportion of publicly funded places are Castilla y León and Castilla-La Mancha, followed by Aragon and Extremadura. In contrast, the Canary Islands and Murcia are the regions with the least publicly funded places, where the percentage is below 1.5%.  

Madrid is the only region with a higher coverage rate for private places (2.5%) than for publicly funded places (1.86%). 


The association also points out that it is ‘significant’ that one year and nine months after the start of the pandemic, the number of residential places in the dependency care system has still not recovered. In February 2020, there were 171,119 places and in November 2021, 169,399, i.e. 1,720 fewer places.  The association also regrets that the Ministry of Social Rights is proposing an ‘agreement on common criteria for accreditation and quality’ in residential care without including an evaluation report on the investments needed to cover the centres or their costs.  

Related post: Covid deaths in nursing homes

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