OVER a fifth of children born in Spain in 2008 were of foreign parents - a year which saw the national birth rate increase by 5.37 percent on figures for 2007.

The National Institute of Statistics (INE) confirmed yesterday that there were 518'967 births in the country last year, and that in the case of immigrant mothers, the birth rate had risen by 15 percent to 107'475.

INE's annual report showed that the net birth rate (per 1'000 inhabitants) stood at 11.38 percent last year, the highest since 1990 when it was 10.33. The indicator for fertility across the country (the average number of children for women of child-bearing age) stood at 1.46 for the same period, the highest its been since 1990 when it registered as 1.36.

The number of births in Spain last year minus the number of people who died was registered as 133'013, up from 107'166 in 2007. This figure was the highest since 1986 when it was recorded as 128'337.

A total of 385'954 people died in Spain last year. The net death rate (number of those dying per 1'000 inhabitants) lowered last year to 8.47 from 8.59 in 2007. The number of foreigners who died last year represented 2.8 percent of the total. Most of this figure came from the United Kingdom and Germany since the average age of the whole immigrant populations is highest amongst this group. The rate of marriage amongst people of a different sex fell to 4.23 for every 1'000 inhabitants from 4.49 in 2007, the lowest since at least 1976 (7.23).