Single-person households to dominate Spain in 2039

Spaniards are aging and the workforce is declining

by Lorraine Williamson
single-person households

Single-person households are projected to grow the fastest in Spain over the next 15 years. According to a forecast published on Monday by the Spanish National Statistics Institute (INE), by 2039, the most common household type will consist of one person, surpassing two-person households.

If current demographic trends in Spain continue, further shifts are expected in the coming decades. The increase in single-person households is not the only change anticipated. Due to population aging and low birth rates, Spain faces significant future challenges. Some of the expected issues related to this trend can only be mitigated through migration. One of the most notable INE projections is that the Spanish birth rate will decline by 20% within half a century.

Single-person households rising to 33.5%

According to INE, if current trends continue, there will be more than 7.7 million single-person households in 15 years. This would represent 33.5% of the total number of households. Such an increase means that the number of single-person households will, for the first time, exceed the number of two-person households. The research agency did not specify the reasons for the rise in single-person households (personal choice, loneliness, old age…). In addition to the increase in single-person households, INE forecasts a 10.6% rise in Spain’s population by 2039.

Currently, the average household in Spain consists of 2.50 persons. In 1970, the average was still 4 persons. In the coming decades, household size is expected to continue decreasing. Moreover, Spain’s population growth will rely solely on migration. If current trends persist, Spain will have 54.6 million inhabitants by 2074. This growth will mainly be due to people born outside of Spain.

Migrants to offset negative population growth

The number of deaths will gradually increase and surpass the birth rate. This would result in negative growth if not for a likely increase in immigration. According to INE, in 50 years, 61% of the population will have been born in Spain. Despite the expected demographic changes, the research agency anticipates that birth rates might rise again from 2058. By then, larger generations will enter their fertile years.

Nevertheless, more people will die than are born. The average number of children per woman is projected to be 1.24 in 2038, compared to 1.16 in 2022. Additionally, INE expects the average age of motherhood to remain around 32 years over the next 50 years.

Challenge for Spain lies in aging population

Spain’s real challenge is associated with the increasing life expectancy of its population. Currently, 20.4% of the Spanish population is 65 years or older, but this group is expected to grow to 30.5% around 2055. The population of centenarians (100 years or older) is projected to increase from an estimated 18,312 people in 2024 to 226,932 in 2072. The working-age population, between 20 and 64 years, is currently 60.9% of the total.

This is expected to decrease to 53.7% in 2051 and 54.2% in 2074. This would mean a significant increase in the number of people potentially dependent on others.

Who will care for the increasing number of elderly?

The moral behind the numbers is clear. The birth crisis that has plagued Spain for over 20 years is fuelled by successive new crises, causing people to postpone or even decide against having children. The declining workforce, combined with increasing life expectancy, could put significant pressure on Spanish society. How will pensions be paid as the number of people over 65 increases? Who will care for the growing number of elderly? It appears that Spain, will become heavily reliant on ‘new Spaniards,’ migrants seeking better opportunities in Spain.

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