Third of babies born in Spain in 2021 were born to foreign parents

by Lorraine Williamson
foreign parents

Almost a third of babies born in Spain in 2021 (32.4%) will have at least one foreign father or mother. But in the provinces of Madrid, Barcelona and Guadalajara, this figure is even as high as 40% or more.

This is mainly due to the increase in the immigrant population in recent decades. Consequently, there are six and a half million more native-born foreigners living in Spain than 25 years ago. 

CEU San Pablo University’s Demographic Observatory notes an “unprecedented demographic change”. This has led to a fifth of Spain’s population being made up of immigrants in less than 30 years.  

The study Immigration: a fifth of today’s Spain, more than a quarter of tomorrow’s Spain gives an overview of the foreign population residing in Spain and analyses its particularities according to territory, country of origin, fertility patterns and compares it with data from Spaniards.  

The impact is such that the average age of native Spaniards would be almost two years older without the immigrant children born here. The study speaks of a “historic socio-demographic transformation”, also because of the short time frame in which it has taken place. In just a few decades, Spain’s seven most populous cities have seen their native population decline by 17% (1.2 million fewer native Spaniards), and replaced by foreigners. 

The big cities 

Barcelona, Bilbao, Madrid and Valencia are the cities where the foreign population has increased by far the most. The city of Barcelona lost 384,000 native Spaniards between 1996 and 2022 (-26%), but added 511,000 new immigrants. Moreover, 46% of babies born in Barcelona in 2021 were of foreign-born mothers.  

In Madrid, over one in four children born that year have a foreign mother (with or without nationality). The foreign-born population has increased by 844 000 since 1996. Meanwhile the native-born population fell by 16% over the same period (-430 000 residents).  

Valencia also experienced a significant number of Spanish-born individuals with Spanish parents (19% less, i.e. 67 000 fewer native Spaniards). This is against against the 170 000 new foreigners that resulted in 31.6% of babies born in 2021 having a mother from another country. 

Something similar is happening in Bilbao (which was among the 7 most populous cities in the country in 1996), where in recent decades the number of residents born in Spain and of Spanish parents has fallen by 19% (-67,000 inhabitants), and almost three in 10 babies born in the Basque city (28.9%) have a foreign mother. Zaragoza is followed by Seville and Malaga, which also lost between 80,000 and 40,000 Spanish-born residents and were replaced by 117,000 to 64,000 new immigrants. 

Cogesa Expats

National level 

At the national level, more than a quarter (27.5%) of babies born in recent years are of foreign-born women, with several communities exceeding 30%. Catalonia (39.4%), the Balearic Islands (37.3%), La Rioja (35.2%), Navarre (33.4%) and Madrid (33.3%) lead the rankings. 

By mother’s origin, the majority (42%) were indigenous, 28% African (of which 80% Moroccan), 22% European (mainly Eastern European and Romanian) and 7% Asian (mainly Pakistani).  

The trend is reinforced by counting both father and mother: 32.4% of children born in 2021 had at least one parent of foreign origin. In Girona province, the 50% threshold was exceeded (50.9%). Lérida also registered a high percentage (45.2%), as did Barcelona and the Balearic Islands, where 45% of those born had a parent from abroad. In Madrid, the percentage was 39% and in Valencia 31%. 

Changing profile 

Overall, the study highlights how this growing trend in the migrant population has been accompanied by a change in the usual profile of those coming to live in Spain in recent decades. Thirty years ago, Western Europeans made up the largest foreign community. Whereas now it is Latin Americans, Africans and Asians.  

Morocco is the largest contributor of foreign-born people. Following Moroccans are Colombians, Romanians, Ecuadorians, Venezuelans, Argentines, British, Peruvians, French and Chinese. Yet by region, and since mid-2015, the foreign-born community that has grown the most is Latin American. This is followed by Africans and Asians (with Chinese and Pakistanis leading the way). 

Towards ‘more affluent’ communities 

‘Immigration leans much more to the more affluent and/or less aged autonomous communities than to those with the opposite profile,’ the study also shows. 

Areas such as the Balearic Islands, Catalonia, Madrid and the Valencian Community receive the most foreign population, while Extremadura, Asturias, Castilla y León and Galicia receive the least.  

Althought, again there are differences by community. In almost all regions, people from the Americas form the largest group, but the pattern changes in some regions, This is the case, for example, in the Valencian Community and Andalucia, where Europeans of retirement age form the largest foreign group. 

Also read: Across Spain less than 900 babies are born each day

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