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Immigration in Spain by country
The population of Spain doubled during the twentieth century due to the spectacular demographic boom in the 1960s and early 1970s. The birth rate then plunged by the 1980s, and Spain's population became stagnant, its demographics showing one of the lowest sub replacement fertility rate in the world, only second to Japan's. . Many demographers have linked Spain's very low fertility rate to the country's lack of any real family planning policy. Spain is the Western European country that spends the least on family support (0.5% of GDP). A graphic illustration of the enormous social gulf between Spain and the other countries of Europe in this field is the fact that a Spanish family would need to have 57 children to enjoy the same financial support as a family with 3 children in Luxembourg.

In emigration/immigration terms and after centuries of net emigration, Spain has recently experienced large-scale immigration for the first time in modern history. According to the Spanish government, there were 4,145,000 foreign residents in Spain in January 2007. Of these, well over half a million were Moroccanmarker while the Ecuadoriansmarker figure was around half a million as well. Romanian and Colombian populations amounted to around 300,000 each. There are also a significant number of British (274,000 as of 2006) and German (133,588) citizens, mainly in Alicantemarker, Málagamarker provinces, Balearic Islandsmarker and Canary Islandsmarker. Chinese in Spain are estimated to number between 10 to 60,000, and South East Asian groups such as Filipinos -whose country was a former Spanish possession- created a small community in Spain. Immigrants from several sub-Saharan African countries have also settled in Spain as contract workers, although they represent only 4.08% of all the foreign residents in the country.

During the early twenty first century, the average year-on-year demographic growth set a new record with its 2003 peak variation of 2.1%, doubling the previous record reached back in the 1960s when a mean year on year growth of 1% was experienced. This trend is far from being reversed at the present moment and, in 2005 alone, the immigrant population of Spain increased by 700 000 people.


Foreign population in SpainFuente: para los años 1981, 1986 y 1991, los datos se refieren tan sólo a extranjeros con permiso de residencia a 31 de diciembre y proceden del Ministerio de Trabajo y Asuntos Sociales, citado en [464104] (tomando, para el porcentaje de 1986, la población española de hecho según la estimación intercensal del INE para el 1 de julio [464105]). Para los datos de 1996 y posteriores, todos los datos proceden del INE [464106]
Year Population % total
1981 198.042 0,52%
1986 241.971 0,63%
1991 360.655 0,91%
1996 542.314 1,37%
1998 637.085 1,60%
2000 923.879 2,28%
2001 1.370.657 3,33%
2002 1.977.946 4,73%
2003 2.664.168 6,24%
2004 3.034.326 7,02%
2005 3.730.610 8,46%
2006 4.144.166 9,27%
2007 4.519.554 9,99%
2008 5.220.600 11,3%

According to the Spanish government, there were 4.5 million foreign residents in Spain in 2007; independent estimates put the figure at 4.8 million or 15.1% of total population (Red Cross, World Disasters Report 2006). According to residence permit data for 2007, around 500,000 were Moroccan, another half a million were Ecuadorian and Romanians, 260,000 were Colombian. Other important foreign communities are British (8.09%), French (8.03%), Argentine (6.10%), German (5.58%) and Bolivian (2.63%). In 2005, a regularization programme increased the legal immigrant population by 700,000 people. Since 2000 Spain has experienced high population growth as a result of immigration flows, despite a birth rate that is only half of the replacement level. This sudden and ongoing inflow of immigrants, particularly those arriving clandestinely by sea, has caused noticeable social tensions.

Spain currently has the second highest immigration rates within the EU, just after Cyprusmarker, and the second highest absolute net migration in the World (after the USA). This can be explained by a number of reasons including its geographical position, the porosity of its borders, the large size of its submerged economy and the strength of the agricultural and construction sectors which demand more low cost labour than can be offered by the national workforce. In fact, booming Spain was Europe's largest absorber of migrants from 2002 to 2007, with its immigrant population more than doubling as 2.5 million people arrived.

Over 920,000 immigrants arrived in Spain during 2007, on top of the 802,971 new arrivals in 2006, 682,711 new arrivals in 2005, and 645,844 new arrivals in 2004.

Immigrants from the European Union

Immigrants from the European Union make up a growing proportion of immigrants in Spain. They mainly come from countries like Romania, the United Kingdom, and Germany, but the British case is of especial relevance due to its magnitude. The British authorities estimate that the real population of UK citizens living in Spain is much bigger than Spanish official figures suggest, establishing them at about 1,000,000, about 800,000 being permanent residents.

In fact, according to the Financial Times, Spain is the most favoured destination for West Europeans considering to move from their own country and seek jobs elsewhere in the EU.

Major immigration

Origin 2008 2007 2006 2001 Growth
% Change Article
+1,187% Romanians in Spain
+141% Moroccans in Spain
+232% Ecuadorians in Spain
+156% British migration to Spain
+204% Colombians in Spain
+2,012% Bolivians in Spain
+52% Germans in Spain
+234% Italians in Spain
+744% Bulgarians in Spain
+363% Argentines in Spain
+280% Chinese people in Spain
+71% Portuguese people in Spain
+174% Peruvians in Spain
+324% Brazilian people in Spain
+75% French people in Spain
+240% Poles in Spain
+577% Ukrainians in Spain
+96% Dominicans in Spain
+2,980% Paraguayans in Spain
+210% Venezuelans in Spain
+158% Algerians in Spain
+82% Cubans in Spain
+566% Uruguayans in Spain
+71% Dutch people in Spain
+409% Pakistanis in Spain
+230% Senegalese people in Spain
+240% Chileans in Spain
+297% Russians in Spain
+316% Nigerians in Spain
+44% Belgians in Spain
TOTAL +202%

From other countries - Europe

Origin 2007 2006 2001 Growth % Change

From other countries - Africa

Origin 2007 2006 2001 Growth % Change
Rest of African countries

From other countries - Central America

Origin 2007 2006 2001 Growth % Change
Costa Ricamarker
El Salvadormarker
Rest of Central America countries

From other countries - North America

Origin 2007 2006 2001 Growth % Change
United Statesmarker

From other countries - Asia

Origin 2007 2006 2001 Growth % Change Article
South Koreamarker Koreans in Spain
Philippinesmarker Filipino Spaniards
Iranmarker Iranians in Spain
Japanmarker Japanese Spaniards
Rest of Asian countries

From other countries - Oceania

Origin 2007 2006 2001 Growth % Change
Rest of Oceania countries


  1. Official report on Spanish recent Macroeconomics, including data and comments on immigration
  2. Source: Instituto Nacional de Estadística. Evolution of the foreign population in Spain since 1998 [1]
  3. Eurostat - Population in Europe in 2005
  4. [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8]
  5. [9]

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