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Population Decline in Spanish Provinces: Impact on Rural Areas and Emptying Spain

J. Oliver

In less than a quarter of a century, thirteen provinces of six Spanish autonomous communities have lost more than 360,000 inhabitants, a population greater than that of all the people who live in the provinces of Araba, in Euskadi, (334,000) or in Burgos, in Castilla. and Leon (355,000).

This is reflected from the population figures registered by the National Institute of Statistics (INE) on January 1 of this year, later reviewed and collated with the municipal registers, declared official by the Government on December 20 and published the following day in the Official State Gazette.

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A fallback.

The Spanish population has grown by close to 20% in the last 24 years, from less than 40 million people in 1998 to more than 47 million today. But the behavior by territories has been very uneven, especially in the rural areas of the interior that make up what was first called “empty Spain” and later, to warn of the lack of public policies that would reverse the process, emptied Spain.

Although there are municipalities in other provinces and autonomies that have been bleeding for decades, the comparison by provinces makes it possible to detect that the population emptiness is concentrated in the inland areas of Galicia, Castilla y León, Castilla La Mancha, Extremadura, Aragón and Andalusia, as well of in Principality of Asturias, uniprovincial.

The most affected community is Castilla y León, where six of its eight provinces have lost population: León, Zamora, Salamanca, Palencia, Ávila and Soria, which have fallen by 153,647 inhabitants since 1998. Only Valladolid and Burgos are spared, although without the capacity to absorb that loss, which almost multiplies by five the population that these two provinces have gained jointly in that period -less than 35,000 people-.

Zamora, paradigm of emptied Spain

In addition, Zamora becomes the paradigm of emptied Spain by heading the list of the greatest relative loss of inhabitants in the country. It has lost 38,000, 18.5% of what it had in 1998, that is, almost one in four. Palencia, with 12% -21,615 less inhabitants- occupies second place in the state ranking, and León, fifth -11.5% of sangria with almost 60,000 fewer inhabitants-.

Third and fourth place is occupied by the Galician provinces of Lugo, which has lost almost 12% of its population, and Ourense, with 11.6%. Between the two they fall to more than 83,000 people, a figure much higher than that of the inhabitants who win together A Coruña and Pontevedra, and which does not exceed 50,000.

The net loss of population also occurs in the two provinces of Extremadura, although the situation is more serious in Cáceres, which today has almost 18,000 fewer inhabitants than 24 years ago, 4.4% less- than in Badajoz, which maintains a certain stability losing only 0.5% -3,168 people-. In the same period, however, the provincial capitals and the city of Mérida registered a population increase of more than 40,000 people.

Asturias registers a relative drop of 7% with 77,000 fewer inhabitants, and Jaén is the only Andalusian province with a negative balance since 1998 (-3.4%). Cuenca, in Castilla La Mancha, fell 2%, and Teruel, in Aragon, 1.8%.

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