EXODUS: Populations of Spain’s rural towns continue to free-fall

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DECLINING NUMBERS: Populations in many rural Spanish towns are falling CREDIT: Shutterstock

MORE THAN 60 per cent of Spanish settlements have less than 1,000 people living in them and are home to 3.2 per cent of the country’s population, government figures show.

The National Institute of Statistics (INE) data shows the majority of Spanish people are concentrated in large cities.

It comes as the government’s Minister of Territorial Planning said recently that falling numbers of people living in small rural towns and villages was the “biggest challenge” facing the country.

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INE data showed that regions in Spain’s interior were bearing the brunt of the country’s rural depopulation trend.

Around 86 per cent of towns in the Aragon Region, 627, have less than 1,000 people living in them. About 55 per cent of people in the region live in two cities, Zaragoza and Huesca, according to the INE.

The same statistics showed more than half of the urban areas in seven of Spain’s autonomous communities (regions) have populations of 1,000 people or less. These are Aragon, Castilla y Leon, Castilla La Mancha, Cataluña, Extremadura, La Roija and Navarra.

Almost nine out of every ten towns in Castilla y Leon, more than 2,000, are home to 1,000 people or less.

The same figure for Castilla La Manca was almost 70 per cent, for Cataluña it was 52 per cent, for Extremadura 56 per cent, La Rioja 84 per cent and Navarra, almost 70 per cent.

The figures come as the government announced measures to help tackle the issue, including an €80 million fund to help create jobs for young people in small rural towns.

Meritxell Batet, the government’s Territorial Planning Minister, said Madrid was also drawing up the Spain’s first national strategy to tackle the issue.

“Living in the rural world is not a failure but quite the opposite because there can also be innovation, dynamism and momentum,” Batet said.

Depopulation continues to be an issue for small Spanish towns as young people move to cities in search of work leaving councils with less in tax revenues for local services.

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