Barcelona Field Studies Centre

Rural depopulation in Spain 2016

8 July 2017

More than half of Spain's towns and villages, 4,995 from a total of 8,125, carry a very high to moderate risk of being completely depopulated in the medium and long term. They are losing population at an average rate of five per hour as their inhabitants continue to age and young people leave to find work and more services elsewhere.

This data comes from a report 'Poblaci├│n y despoblaci├│n en Espa├▒a 2016'. The study was carried out based on the 2016 population census published by the Instituto Nacional de Estad├şstica.

The report warns that the demographic crisis continues to worsen and that its effects compromise the future of more and more Spanish municipalities. There are already 2,652 villages that have less than 500 inhabitants. Of these, 1,286 (almost two out of ten Spanish municipalities) have less than one hundred residents. This is 48 more than in 2015, and 358 more than in 2000. In Catalonia, Gisclareny (population: 26) became the least populated village in 2018 after Sant Jaume de Frontanyà  (population: 30) grew by 3 families.

Rural depopulation creates a number of economic, social and environmental problems. It is much more costly to provide essential public services for an ageing and dispersed population. Valuable historical and cultural heritage is lost and abandoned farmland soon reverts to scrubland and forest, making it more vulnerable to fire.

Sánchez Quero, the president of the FEMP depopulation commission (Federación Española de Municipios y Provincias) described the demographic decline as 'a major socio-political problem'. He emphasized that the demographic crisis is hitting small and medium municipalities particularly hard, with more and more villages 'behind the red danger line of extinction'. He called for a national plan against depopulation, coordinated between the State, autonomous communities and FEMP, which should be developed through the Provincial Councils and Town Halls.

Consequently, the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy appointed a Government Commissioner to develop a National Strategy to address the demographic challenge.

Source: La mitad de los municipios españoles está en riesgo de extinción