There has been a lot of news lately about Spanish emigration, especially since the country’s population shrank in 2012 for the first time since the Civil War.
The thing is, net emigration is almost entirely driven by returning migrants. Net emigration of Spanish nationals is tiny. In absolute numbers, we are talking about a net emigration of 20,484 Spaniards in 2011 and approximately 34,000 in 2012. (Net emigration of foreigners ran about 149,000 in 2012.) Even the gross emigration is small: 62,611 in 2011 and approximately 73,000 in 2012.
The below chart presents the components of monthly population change (at annualized rates). They sum together for total population change. (That is the black line.) I have no idea why births are so lumpy in 2011. Since that was a census year, I suspect it represents some sort of adjustment to bring the vital statistics data in line with the census, but that is just a guess.
Until 2012, the biggest component was natural increase. It ran at 124,000 in 2009, 97,000 in 2010, 103,000 in 2011, and will come to 102,000 in 2012 at current rates.
(Data from here.)
Of course, even a small emigration could have profound social effects, depending on who they are. But these numbers mean that you should take stories about the wave of Spanish immigrants descending on Latin America with a giant grain of salt. Outside the wait staff at a few chic restaurants and perhaps some specialized trades, the Spanish second conquista is not big enough to be noticeable anywhere in Latin America. Setty already noticed the dearth of Spaniards in his examination of the Chilean census, but it looks like a generalizable result. Maybe the dam will break, but it hasn’t yet.