STAFF REPORTER MADRID/PALMA

BY the end of March this year, the number of foreigners officially resident in Spain rose to 4.8 million, reported Central Government's Ministry for Employment and Immigration yesterday.

The increase registered during the first quarter of this year was up by 1.07 percent (51'267 people) in comparison with the same three-month period a year ago. But in terms of a year-on-year rise, there were 7.7 percent (347'150) more people in Spain at the end of March this year than there were at the same time in 2009.

Of this total of 4'8 million, 53.1 percent (2.5 million) are from countries outside the European Union. There has been a 0.4 percent increase in this group at a national level during the first quarter of this year.

Foreigners from the EU member states, 46.8 percent of the total (2.2 million people) increased their numbers by 1.7 percent during the same period.
According to sex of the foreign community, 53.3 percent are men, and by nationality, the most numerous foreign groups are from Morocco (775'054); Romania (772'137); Ecuador (437'279); Colombia (284'940); and the United Kingdom (223'213). These are followed by Italy, China, Bulgaria, Peru and Portugal. The numbers of French people are now more numerous in Spain than the Polish.

Despite the rising number of foreign residents as whole and the continued dominance of the most numerous communities, there has been a downturn in the first quarter of this year in the number of people living in Spain originally from Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru and the Dominican Republic. In the case of Argentinians and Ecuadorians, the decline has also been registered over the period of a year from March 2009 to March 2010.

Meanwhile, in terms of absolute numbers, it is the Romanian community which is growing the fastest, followed by Italy, Morocco and Bolivia. Of the total foreign population, 13.80 percent is under 16 years of age, 82.38 percent are aged between 16 and 64 and 3.82 percent are 65 or over.

Looking at the regions of the country, Catalonia Madrid, Valencia and Andalucia account for 65.75 percent of the foreign population of Spain. Madrid takes top spot with 884'271 foreigners, followed by Barcelona with 725'012. Murcia, the Balearic Islands and Malaga each have around 200'000 foreign residents.