Spain will need to attract 37 million new immigrants over the next 30 years

Spain will need to attract 37 million new immigrants over the next 30 years

Spain faces a demographic challenge that threatens the sustainability of its pension system. According to the Banco de España, to prevent a dramatic increase in the dependency ratio, Spain will need to attract 37 million new immigrants over the next 30 years. This figure is crucial to understanding the dynamics between the aging population and the workforce required to support it.

Understanding the Dependency Ratio

The dependency ratio is the proportion of individuals aged over 66—who are generally pensioners—relative to those between 16 and 66, who are potential contributors to social security. Currently, this ratio in Spain stands at 26.5%, meaning there are approximately four working-age individuals for every person over 66. However, demographic trends indicate a significant shift in this balance over the next three decades.

Projected Changes by 2053

Projections by the Instituto Nacional de Estadística (INE) suggest that by 2053, the dependency ratio will increase by more than 20 percentage points. The aging population is expected to rise to nearly 15 million, while the working-age population is predicted to decrease to about 31.2 million, a drop of almost a million from today’s figures. Without significant immigration, the ratio of workers to pensioners would reach a critical level, with drastic implications for the pension system.

YearPopulation over 66 Years (Millions)Working-Age Population (Millions)Dependency Ratio (%)Required Immigrants (Millions)
20531531.2Projected >46.536.6
The key demographic and immigration data

Immigrants as a Solution

To maintain a stable dependency ratio, substantial immigration is necessary. According to calculations, maintaining the current dependency ratio by 2053 would require about 36.6 million immigrants. This is because, even with an anticipated decrease in the native working-age population to 18.9 million, a total of 55.5 million working-age individuals would be needed to sustain pension payouts under the current system.

Economic Implications

Immigration can have complex fiscal impacts. Historically, in Anglo-Saxon countries, immigrants tend to contribute more in taxes than they receive in state benefits, positively affecting the fiscal balance. However, in many European countries, the situation is often reversed, with immigrants consuming more in public services than they contribute in taxes.

Spain will need to attract 37 million new immigrants over the next 30 years

Therefore, while necessary, immigration is not a guaranteed solution to fiscal challenges and could lead to increased taxes or reduced public spending if not managed carefully.

Alternative Measures

Increasing the birth rate within Spain is another potential solution, albeit a challenging one. To maintain the current dependency ratio solely through higher birth rates, each Spanish woman would need to have approximately two to three children in the coming decades—a target that seems unrealistic given current trends.


Spain is at a demographic crossroads. Without significant changes, either through massive immigration or an unlikely surge in birth rates, the country faces severe economic strain due to an unsustainable dependency ratio. This situation requires careful planning and policy adjustments to ensure the long-term viability of the public pension system, making the next 30 years crucial for Spain’s socio-economic stability.