Reuters International

MADRID (Reuters) - More Spaniards died than were born last year for the first time in 75 years, statistics showed on Thursday, illustrating Spain's difficulties in reconciling a shrinking workforce with an overburdened social security system.

Spain's financial crisis worsened the trend as high unemployment encouraged people to seek better prospects abroad and families held off having children. The country has the tenth oldest population in the world with an average age of around 43.

The National Statistics Institute (INE) said deaths exceeded births by almost 3,200 over the full year, the first time this had happened since it began collecting annual data in 1941, shortly after the end of the country's 1936-1939 Civil War.

The population, now numbering about 46 million, is projected to become the fourth oldest in the world by 2030, with an average age of 50.1 years, according to the United Nations.

The INE predicted last year that the trend of more deaths than births would widen until 2062 and said Spain's population would probably fall by more than a million in the next 15 years and by 5.6 million in the next 50 years.

Spain's birth rate peaked just before its economy began to crumble in 2008, with almost 100,000 less children being born last year than then. The number of deaths per year has climbed by almost 36,000 since 2008.

(Reporting by Angus Berwick; Editing by Sonya Dowsett/Mark Heinrich)

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