MADRID - Spain is in danger of extinction. There are fewer and fewer children and more and more elders. This stark prognosis has been known for some years now: in 2050 Spain will be the oldest country in the world. People over 80 years old will represent the biggest segment of its population. There will be more deaths than births and fewer people of working age.

The economic crisis has accelerated the process. Since the beginning of the crisis in 2008, the number of births has dropped by 13%, whereas the number of deaths increased so much that it reached a record level last year.

There were 453,637 recorded births in 2012, 3.9% less than in 2011 and 12.8% less than in 2008, when 519,779 babies were born – the highest level in three decades. According to the data published last year by Spain’s National Institute for Statistics, 405,615 people died in 2011 – 4.6% more than in 2011.

And between 2011 and 2012, the fertility rate decreased from 1.34 to 1.32 children per woman on average. At the same time, the average age at which women have their first child rose from 31.4 to 31.6.

Contrary to expectations, the mass arrival of immigrants during Spain’s prosperous period, which lasted 15 years, did not lessen the demographic crisis – even though it could have. After plummeting during the late 1970s, the Spanish birth rate soared between 1998 and 2008. But for the past four years it has been decreasing faster and faster.

There are two explanations for the downturn. Fertility has been diminishing year after year because Spanish couples are increasingly giving up on having children. Twenty percent of babies born in 2012 were born to foreign mothers. The second reason is that there are fewer women of childbearing age.