Population over 64 in Spain now more than 20%, outnumbers that of under-20s

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Funcas | The growing imbalance in the size of the older and younger generations poses a challenge for intergenerational solidarity, with important implications at the economic, social and political levels. Spain is a good example of this demographic trend. While in 2012 the population aged 65 and over accounted for 17.4% of the population, by 2022 already exceeded 20%. In contrast, the population under 20 years of age fell to 19.2% in 2022, after years of stagnation at around 20%. In other words, the proportion of the population aged over 64 in Spain already exceeds that of the under-20s, something that has already happened in Germany, Italy and Portugal, among other European countries, as we noted on the occasion of the European Day of Solidarity between Generations, which was celebrated last weekend.

Demographic projections point to a greater imbalance between generations in the coming decades, which poses a challenge insofar as the groups expected to show solidarity – i.e. mutual cooperation and generosity – have resources that place them in very different positions. Today, it is the older generations who absorb most of the national income channelled through European welfare states. They also tend to have the most financial and real estate wealth and, because of their demographic weight, they are decisive actors in electoral results.

Since 2013, the highest income per person and consumption unit has been in the over-64 age group, which has also had the lowest risk of poverty or social exclusion since 2010. The generations that draw most of their income from public pensions are in a better economic position than the rest of the generations, not only better off than those outside the labour market (such as those under 16), but also better off than those of working age (16-64).

These data outline a context more favourable to tension than to intergenerational solidarity. However, in the Spanish case, no conflict is observed, which may be due to the close relations between generations in Spanish families.

Contacts between relatives of different generations who do not live in the same household indicate the intensity of intergenerational relations. According to responses to a question by the Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas (CIS) on the frequency of arranging “to go out or meet at home” with non-cohabiting relatives, including parents and children, the pandemic has not weakened the frequency of physical, face-to-face encounters between relatives of different generations.

Responses to the same question also reveal that, although Spaniards meet or go to see more frequently with children than with parents, the relationship with parents is very frequent. The proportion of Spaniards who meet with or go to see their (non-cohabiting) parents “several times a week” reached 56% last March (about 20 points below the percentage of those who reported meeting with children who do not live at home). Among men, the percentages are significantly lower. It is noteworthy that, at all ages, women report meeting with or going to see parents, children or (non-cohabiting) siblings more frequently than men.

It is reasonable to assume that the two spheres of intergenerational solidarity – family and social – are connected and that, as long as they remain so, the likelihood of intergenerational conflict will be lower. However, this “family safeguard” may also be weakened in societies where, like Spain’s, the younger generations are emptied by the fall in births.

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The Corner
The Corner has a team of on-the-ground reporters in capital cities ranging from New York to Beijing. Their stories are edited by the teams at the Spanish magazine Consejeros (for members of companies’ boards of directors) and at the stock market news site Consenso Del Mercado (market consensus). They have worked in economics and communication for over 25 years.