The latest statistics released by the Instituto Nacional de Estadística (INE) suggest that only two out of ten people living in the Alicante province are less than 19 years old. This means that 19.8% of those living in this region are below 19 years of age or 363,000 out of the 1.8 million people living here. The drop in the number of young people has been put down to difficulties getting work, low wages, lack of professional opportunities and the problem of juggling parenthood and a career.
The result is an aging population with fewer and fewer young people and a growth in those of 100 years old and more. The number of people who have lived a century or more has now tripled in the province whilst the number of births has fallen by 5,000. In order to rectify the balance there would need to be a baby boom similar to that of the 1970s. This year 15,035 babies were born compared to 22,000 in 1976 – a record number for the province.
One of the factors being blamed for the decline is the difficulties that women have with childcare and the lack ofresponsibility taken by men in the family home. Sociologist from the University of Alicante, Raul Ruiz Callado, suggests that women are delaying having children or even deciding not to have them at all because of the difficulties of maintaining a career and looking after a family.
Callado also suggests that having more children is no longer seen as desirable. He describes how in agricultural societies having more children to help was seen to improve the quality and standard of living of the family. Children were considered to be ‘production goods’ but now, he suggests, they are ‘consumer goods’. They represent a considerable expense more than an aid for survival.
Does it matter? A reduction in the number of young people results in a loss to the economy. According to professor Carlos Gómez Gil from the University of Alicante, ‘Young people are a valuable work force. The deficit is damaging growth and the economy needs them. Their tax contributions are also important and as the population ages more workers are needed to cope with pensions.’