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Alban d'Entremont, Director of department of Geography and Spatial Planning, University of Navarra, Spain.

On the decline in the birth rate in Spain

Wed, 23 Jun 2010 08:25:43 +0000 Published in El Correo (Basque Country), Diario Sur (Málaga), Diario de Navarra, Ideal (Granada), El Diario Montañés (Cantabria), Hoy (Extremadura), El Adelanto de Salamanca, Heraldo de Soria, El Norte de Castilla (Castilla y León), El Diario de León

The birth rate in Spain has slowed down, after ten years of slight rebound from the very low levels of a decade ago. This news does not come as a surprise to those who know the gears of demographic phenomena or the recent social and economic history of Spain. Nor is it good news, since Spain needs to revitalize its demographic Structures , although the drop indicated -from 11.4 to 10.7 births per thousand inhabitants- is not in itself extremely serious, unless it indicates a trajectory that will be accentuated in the future in the short and medium term. In this sense, the difference in fertility levels from one year to the next does not constitute a "historical series" as such, but rather a one-off event. We will have to wait a few years to see if this variation is merely cyclical or indicative of a real change in trend. If the latter is confirmed, it would seriously jeopardize the future of Spain, in terms of loss of population, shortage of youth and increase in aging.

The explanation given by the National Institute of Statistics (INE) is correct, since the above-mentioned facts are indeed related to this "standstill": decrease of births to foreign mothers, reduction of issue of women of childbearing age, decrease of marriages and increase of the so-called same-sex marriages. As for foreign women, it is not surprising that they have been gradually adapting to "Western" patterns, not only by emulating the example of the autochthonous population in subject of contraception or model of reduced family, for example, but also because of the economic crisis which, naturally, negatively affects the training of families, and which is being especially acute among the immigrant population. The reduction of the issue of women of childbearing age is the logical result of the leave fertility that Spain has been experiencing for more than a generation, plus the fact that the population is progressively aging, as result of that same leave birth rate. The leave nuptiality is a continuation of patterns long observed in Spain, which have to do with changes in the "traditional" mentality of training households, coupled with the increasingly advanced age of marriage, which substantially reduces, for practical purposes, the so-called procreative period of women.

The slight decrease in mortality is mainly due to the increase in life expectancy average at birth, according to which Spain leads the world, with an average life expectancy for both men and women of over 80 years. However, as the INE rightly points out, this decrease has been insufficient to halt the decline in natural or vegetative growth (the difference between births and deaths), which, with an increase of barely 110,000 people, is far from the levels of recent decades.