Now Spain, like much of the EU, faces the demographic consequences. The results have been transformative. In a half century Spain’s fertility rate has fallen more than 50% to 1.4 children per female, one of the lowest not only in Europe, but also the world and well below the 2.1 rate necessary simply to replace the current population. More recently the rate has dropped further at least 5 percent.
Essentially, Spain and other Mediterranean countries bought into northern Europe’s liberal values, and low birthrates, but did so without the economic wherewithal to pay for it. You can afford a Nordic welfare state, albeit increasingly precariously, if your companies and labor force are highly skilled or productive. But Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal lack that kind of productive industry; much of the growth stemmed from real estate and tourism. Infrastructure development was underwritten by the EU, and the country has become increasingly dependent on foreign investors.
Unlike Sweden or Germany, Spain cannot count now on immigrants to stem their demographic decline and generate new economic energy. Although 450,000 people, largely from Muslim countries, still arrive annually, over 580,000 Spaniards are heading elsewhere — many of them to northern Europe and some to traditional places of immigration such as Latin America. Germany, which needs 200,000 immigrants a year to keep its factories humming, has emerged as a preferred destination.
As a result Spain could prove among the first of the major EU countries to see an actual drop in population. The National Institute for Statistics (INE) predicts the country will lose one million residents in the coming decade, a trend that will worsen as the baby boom generation begins to die off. The population of 47 million will drop an additional two million by 2021. By 2060, according to Macarron, Spain will be home to barely 35 million people.