Spain has more than 48 million inhabitants for the first time

by Lorraine Williamson
population growth

MADRID – The population of Spain increased by 136,916 in the first quarter of 2023, with Madrid, the region of Valencia and Catalonia leading in terms of growth. 

The National Institute of Statistics (INE) reported on Tuesday that the population in Spain has reached a “historic peak”: on April 1, the number of inhabitants was 48,196,693, representing a growth of 136,916 persons in the first quarter of 2023. 

The population growth in Spain is due to the increase in immigrants, which compensates for the decrease in residents with Spanish nationality. The number of foreigners increased by 149,530 in the first quarter to a total of 6.2 million. Moreover, the number of people born outside the country is 8.3 million. Therefore, the difference between these two figures is explained by naturalisation processes. On the other hand, the number of residents with Spanish nationality has decreased by 12,614. 

Also read: Spain records record population

Nationalities of Immigrants and Emigrants 

The main nationalities of immigrants in the first quarter of 2023 were as follows;

  • Colombian (with 44,300 arrivals in Spain)
  • Moroccan (23,200)
  • Venezuelan (21,500)

And the most common nationalities of emigrants were as follows;

  • Spanish (with 11,500 leaving)
  • Moroccan (8,400)
  • Romanian (7,700)


Joaquín Recaño, professor at the Centre for Demographic Studies (CED), explains this development in El País: “Birth rates have fallen sharply. Fertility will worsen due to structural reasons, the number of women of childbearing age has decreased and we moving towards smaller family models. In the Valencia region, for example, the number of children needed to be recognised as a large family has already been reduced to two,” he warns. In addition, there is a gradual ageing and rising mortality, “not due to a decrease in life expectancy, but due to an increase in the elderly,” the professor adds. 

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Economic crises in Latin American countries 

Recaño emphasises that immigration from Latin America is stimulated by the economic crisis in countries such as Colombia and Venezuela. Local labour markets cannot provide sufficient employment opportunities for the large number of students who graduate each year. “In Spain, they find work because of the high demand in the healthcare and tourism sectors, which are struggling to find workers,” he notes. 

Population growing again as of July 2015 

On an annual basis, the estimated population growth is estimated at 590,184 people, the highest level since 2008. The population peaked on January 1, 2012, at 46.8 million, and then began to decline slightly due to the crisis, reaching a low of 46, 3 million in July 2015. However, from then on, growth started again and has held up to date, except for a slight decline during the pandemic. 

Also read: A third of babies born in Spain during 2021 were to foreign parents

Population growth by region 

At the regional level, the INE estimates that the population has grown in 15 autonomous communities and decreased slightly in the two remaining ones: Extremadura and Galicia, as well as in the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla, during the first quarter of 2023. The largest relative growth occurred in the Autonomous Community of Madrid (0.6%), the Region of Valencia (0.5%) and Catalonia (0.4%). 

More insight into migration flows 

It is the first time that the INE has published the Estadística Continua de Población (ECP). However, from now on, it will provide a provisional estimate of population development every quarter. The ECP also provides a first estimate of quarterly external migration flows. This provides data on the most important migration patterns by nationality and country of birth. Thus, variations in the size of the population in Spain and the development of migration dynamics in different countries can be explained. 

Also read: Malaga shows second highest population growth in Spain

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