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What 'empty Spain' needs: Services key to halting rural population decline examined in full
02 August 2020 @ 20:39

BANKS, shops and public transport, as well as healthcare, education facilities and a postal delivery service are 'key' to stemming Spain's rural exodus, says a recently-released report.

According to sociologists Luis Camarero, of Spain's 'open university', the UNED, and Jesús Oliva of Navarra Public University, the remote country villages whose populations are ageing and shrinking have been thrust sharply into the spotlight after lockdown drew attention to their local needs.

The least-densely populated areas of Spain are stuck in a type of 'Catch 22' situation: Few services or job opportunities are in place for younger adults, because there are not enough of them to warrant these; but the lack of these services and opportunities means younger adults tend to leave for cities and coasts as soon as they finish school.

As a result, few or no children are born, and as the older residents gradually die out, the headcount dwindles to nothing – in fact, villages that are now completely empty can be found in some of Spain's more rural regions.

The National Institute of Statistics (INE) said in 2019 that 53% of Spain has fewer than 12 inhabitants per square kilometre – to put that into perspective, even a small town on the coast has a typical population density of around 400 to 600 per square kilometre – and 6,000 Spanish villages have seen their headcount fall in the last 10 years.

Eight in 10 villages in 14 of Spain's 50 provinces are at risk of becoming completely empty in a generation or two – and yet, the collective population of all of these together would fill a city the size of Madrid several times over.

The UNED and Navarra University report reveals that the bank and supermarket most frequently found – and, indeed, the most prolific private-sector companies altogether – in villages of 10,000 inhabitants or fewer are CaixaBank and Día.

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