The emptied Spain is one of the issues that has been most present on the political agenda in recent times with the permission of the pandemic, and it also occupies an important place in the 2050 plan presented by the Government. The conclusion (or one of them) is that it is not only rural Spain that is losing population, Rather, this dynamic is already taking place even in some provincial capitals.
The report, in fact, speaks of a “very heterogeneous” population distribution from which there is a high “concentration” of population in areas such as Madrid and Barcelona, the Mediterranean coast, the islands, some provinces of the Basque Country and Andalusia. In contrast, many places in the interior of the peninsula are suffering from depopulation. In fact, according to the latest data, around 42% of rural municipalities in Spain are “at risk of depopulation.”
The so-called rural exodus began in the 1960s and has not stopped since. Between 2001 and 2008, the arrival of foreign immigration to Spain meant that rural depopulation will slow down in some areas. However, the 2010 economic crisis reactivated the trend and consolidated, says the document, “a trend of rural abandonment that neither the economic improvement nor the recovery of immigration flows that occurred in the following years could reverse.” Thus, the percentage of the population living in rural municipalities has gone from 27% in 1981 to 20% in 2020.
Aging equals depopulation
The depopulation, in addition, has a key cause in the aging of the population. The general average age in Spain of 43.6 years but in the municipalities With less than 5,000 inhabitants, it is close to 50. In them, the proportion of people aged 15-19 who retired fell by 41% between 2000 and 2018.
There is also a direct relationship between the exodus of young people from small towns and the lack of job opportunities. So much so that in Spain there are today, as stated in the plan, 1,109 municipalities in which no child between 0 and 4 years old lives, and 393 in which the majority of its inhabitants are over 65.
The disparity between towns and cities is very wide. In large cities there are better infrastructures, better access to basic services and much more advanced digitization, so the development of working life ends up being easier. Instead, emptied Spain is affected by a lack of progress in all these areas. Instead, the advantage that rural areas can count on is better, and more affordable, access to housing.
However, until 2035 it is expected that there will be population growth in some areas of Spain, although it will also be uneven. Until then, nine communities and one autonomous city will lose population: Asturias, Castilla y León, Extremadura, Galicia, Cantabria, Ceuta, Castilla-La Mancha, Basque Country, Aragon and La Rioja, in this order of magnitude, according to the Government’s forecasts. On the other hand, beyond the Community of Madrid and Catalonia, the Levant will concentrate population growth. From precisely Catalonia, through the Valencian Community, to some regions of Andalusia.
And the Government launches an alert: the universalization of the internet instead of homogenizing the population distribution has caused the opposite. “The digital economy further concentrated its activity in cities and their metropolitan areas, through an expansion of the service sector and a greater accumulation of companies in urban belts “, they use in the document.
No change in trend expected
This trend, despite everything, has no signs of changing. In general, the proportion of the population living in urban centers will continue to increase, and may go from representing 80% of the current total to 88% in 2050. In fact, cities such as Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia or Zaragoza will see their population increase, reaching 32% of the population in the year 2035 compared to the current 30%. And it is not an express phenomenon of Spain, as it will also occur in other neighboring countries, as emphasized in the report.
For the Government, “both positive and negative effects are derived from this contrast.” On the one hand, they explain, the concentration of population in larger municipalities could “Help reorder public spending, and achieve greater economic dynamism in the country as a whole.”
On the other, the depopulation of some medium-sized cities and rural municipalities “could increase the saturation of large cities, aggravate the degradation and abandonment of our natural ecosystems, generate an immense cultural and patrimonial loss, and accelerate the economic decline of these areas, causing the closure of numerous businesses, the loss of agricultural, forestry and tourism activities, and the depreciation of thousands of properties “.
The objective, therefore, would be to find “a balance between these potential gains and losses, and to design a strategy to stop the loss of dynamism of the smallest municipalities based on this balanceIt will be one of the great challenges that our country will have to solve between now and 2050 “, they end up saying.