Press release 05/07/2018


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The population of the Basque Country in 2016 exceeded that of 1981 by 35,000

Between 1981 and 2016 the population aged 65 and over doubled to reach 22%

The population of the Basque Country between 1981 and 2016 increased by 35,000 people, though with positive and negative variations throughout the period, as demonstrated by the analysis of demographic phenomena performed by Eustat and synthesized in the 2018 Demographic Outlook.

During the first period, from 1981 to 2001, the population fell by just over 59,000, mostly during the 90s, when negative migratory balances were combined with negative growth rates (the difference between births and deaths). Between 2001 and 2011 the population increased by 91,000 people, due to extremely positive migratory balances together with positive population growth rates, which meant that over these ten years it easily recovered the loss of the previous 20 years. Between 2012 and 2016 the population decreased by 3,000 people but, despite that, the number of inhabitants of the Basque Country continues to exceed that of 1981.


With respect to the structure of the population of the Basque Country, the evolution of the distribution by main age groups showed a sharp and continuous decrease in the population in the youngest age brackets, while there was an increase among the oldest age groups. Between 1981 and 2016, the population aged 65 and over doubled their representation, rising from 9% to 22%. The young age brackets also decreased in number at this rate: one out of every three people in 1981 was under 20 years old compared to 18% in 2016. Much more striking was the increase in the oldest age bracket, those aged 85 and over, as their number had multiplied by 5.5 over these 36 years, accounting for 4% of the total.

The gross birth rate stood at 8.4 births per 1000 people in 2016

In the Basque Country the gross birth rate stood at 8.4 births per 1000 people in 2016, whilst in the 60s it exceeded 20 per thousand and was higher than the Spanish rate. Since then the descent was continuous up until 1995, when the rate reached 7.3 per thousand, and then increased again to its highest level in 2008 (9.9 per thousand). In recent years the rate has fallen again to the aforementioned 2016 level.

The average age of mothers at childbirth increased by 4 years from 1978 to reach 33 in 2016, a figure higher than in Spain (32 years) and in other neighbouring countries such as Italy (31.8 years), Portugal (31.1 years) and Germany (30.9 years).

The average age at death increased by 15 years

The number of deaths has increased by 52.8% since 1979, which had the lowest number of deaths in the period 1975-2016, until 2015, which had the highest number. The average age at death has increased by 15.4 years, indicating a greater longevity in the population. The increase in the age by sex was similar for both, 15.6 for men compared to 15.2 for women, but the starting point was not the same, as men died at an average of 60.9 years old in 1975 and women aged 68. The difference in the average age at death gradually increased until 1992, when it was 10 years, then later dropped to 6.6 years in 2016.

The cause of death has changed over the last 26 years, particularly in the case of tumours and circulatory system diseases. In 1990, the latter accounted for nearly 36% of deaths, while tumours were the cause of 27%. The evolution of these two groups of causes meant that in 2016 tumours had a greater weight (29.8%) than circulatory system diseases (27%). The external causes fell in importance over that period from nearly 6% in 1990 to 3.7% in 2016 due to the significant reduction in traffic accidents. However, it was diseases affecting the nervous system and mental disorders that showed greater growth, as they rose from 4.3% in 1990 to 13.4% in 2016 due, above all, to the increase in Alzheimer´s disease and dementia.

Ever fewer marriages and at a later age

The 7,387 marriages between people of different sex resident in the Basque Country in 2016 was the lowest figure since 1976, when there were 16,093. The Basque marriage rate, with 3.4 marriages per thousand inhabitants, is among the lowest in Europe and is only comparable to the rates in Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Apart from the drop in the number of marriages, the most important characteristic of the marriage trends among the Basque population is the increase in age of the single bride or groom. From 1986 onwards, the average age of the grooms increased by 8.4 years and 9.5 years in the case of the brides. In 2016, the average age of single men when marrying was 36.7 years old, while the single women were 34.8.

The Basque Country went from losing population to receiving it

Between 1988 and 1999 the Basque Country lost 52,638 people due to migration, but since 2000 it gained 119,996, mostly due to the increased immigration of foreign people. In the first sixteen years of this century 610,951 people immigrated compared to 490,955 who emigrated, reversing the direction of the last 11 years of the 20th century when the relation was 136,159 immigrants to 188,797 emigrants.

From 1998 to 2016, the migratory balances from outside the Basque Country have performed in a different way according to the geographical sphere in question. The balances from abroad were always positive, except in 2012, 2013 and 2014 with 12,851 fewer people, but they were trifling until 1997 as there were no more than 2000 people in total.

The balances with the rest of Spain, however, were negative throughout the period 1988-2008. The highest negative balance was in 1988 with more than 21,000 people and in the other years it stabilised at around 4,000. With 49 people, 2008 was the first year, since Eustat started publishing these statistics, in which there was more immigration to the Basque Country from other Autonomous Communities than emigration from it. In subsequent years this balance increased to 6,638 people in 2011, although in 2015 it stood at 947.

For further information:

Eustat - Euskal Estatistika Erakundea / Basque Statistics Institute C/ Donostia-San Sebastián, 1 01010 Vitoria-Gasteiz Press Service: Tel: 945 01 75 62

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The population of the Basque Country in 2016 exceeded that of 1981 by 35,000

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