Spain Table of Contents
In mid-1985, Spain's population reached 38.8 million, making it Western Europe's fifth most populous nation. The country's population grew very slowly throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century and most of the twentieth. In the 1860s, the population increased by only about one-third of one percent annually; by the first decades of the twentieth century, this rate of increase had grown to about 0.7 percent per year. Between the 1930s and the 1980s, population growth rates hovered between 0.8 and 1.2 percent annually (see table 3, Appendix). In the postwar years, Spain began to exhibit population growth patterns very similar to those of most other advanced industrial societies. Growth rates were projected to level off, or to decline slightly, through the remainder of the twentieth century; Spain was expected to reach a population of 40 million by 1990 and 42 million by the year 2000. Observers estimated that the country's population would stabilize in the year 2020 at about 46 million.
One significant factor in Spain's population growth has been a declining rate of births. Between 1965 and 1985, Spain experienced a dramatic reduction in its birth rate, from 21 to 13 per thousand, a drop of approximately 38 percent. In 1975, with an estimated base population of about 35.5 million, the country recorded about 675,000 live births; in 1985, with an estimated base population of more than 38 million, Spain had only about 475,000 live births. In other words, ten years after the death of Franco, despite an increase of nearly 3 million in the base population, the country registered more than one-third fewer births.
Part of this change can be attributed to the increase in the percentage of women using contraceptives. Whereas in the 1960s such data were not even reported, by 1984 the World Bank (see Glossary) estimated that over half of Spanish women of childbearing age practiced birth control. Demographers have observed, however, that this increased use of contraceptive devices was only the surface reflection of other more significant changes in Spanish society during the period from 1960 to 1985. The economic causes included an economic slump, unemployment, insufficient housing, and the arrival of the consumer society. Also, changes in cultural patterns reflected women's increased access to employment, expanded women's rights, a decline in the number of marriages (between 1974 and 1984, the marriage rate dropped from 7.6 to 5.0 per 1,000), an improved image of couples without children, a decline in the belief that children were the center of the family, increased access to abortion and divorce, and in general a break in the linkage between woman and mother as social roles.
At the same time that the birth rate was dropping sharply, Spain's low death rate also declined slightly, from 8 to 7 per 1,000. By the mid-1980s, life expectancy at birth had reached seventy-seven years, a level equal to or better than that of every other country in Europe except France, and superior to the average of all the world's advanced industrial countries. Male life expectancy increased between 1965 and 1985 from sixty-eight to seventy-four years, while female life expectancy rose from seventy-three to eighty years.
By the early 1980s, Spain, like all advanced industrial countries, had begun to experience the aging of its population (see fig. 6). In 1980 a reported 10.6 percent of its population was over 65 years of age, a figure that was only a bare point or two behind the percentages in the United States and the Netherlands. By 1986 the percentage over 65 had climbed to 12.2; officials estimated that by 2001, the percentage over sixty-five would exceed 15. In 1985 children under the age of 14 constituted 25 percent of the population; specialists anticipated that, by the year 2001, this proportion would decline to 18 percent.
Data as of December 1988
Spain Table of Contents