New 2018 Census Shows That One in Four Barcelonans Was Born Abroad

Only Half of the Residents Were Born in the City

One in four Barcelonans was born abroad. Perhaps the absolute figures will amaze you even more. More than 400,000 Barcelonans, out of a total population of 1.6 million residents, were born in another country. Barcelona is increasingly turning into Babel. The last census prepared by the city's municipal statistics service is a hyper-realist portrait, like a painting by Richard Estes. In medical terms, the census is a complete check up in this case of a demographically sick city clearly not only because of the origin of its residents but also because of the endless list of supplementary data that it offers about its ailments. It paints a portrait of a city with more people older than 65 than younger than 18, where it is most common that people live alone (this is the case in nearly one in three apartments) and where its oldest neighbourhoods (Gòtic, Poble Sec, Santa Caterina, Barceloneta) loses population without any solution in sight.

The main dish served by the census this year, to a certain extent a statistical novelty that hasn't sufficiently considered, is the number of people born abroad. In previous editions it was normal only to emphasise the number of foreigners, which was also the considerable number of 301,626 people and according to the last calculation was 18.5% of the population. This was a historic record but the growing number of nationalisations puts this figure in the background especially when compared with the 400,000 born abroad in this year's census. It also helps us better understand the social and cultural complexity of Barcelona, a city where 72.5% of the registered foreigners have lived here for less than six years.

The Italian community is the one with the largest number of residents in the city. It been that way for years and is no longer surprising. Even less when you bear in mind the secret behind this figure. In reality, a large part of the 18,715 Italians are Argentinians, who have obtained a tricolour passport because of their ancestors. However, by place of birth, the largest local community is Peruvian, which is a surprise. On January 1st 2018, there were 24,378 of them but the truth is that nearly two thirds of them already have a Spanish passport. There are more of them than there are Argentinians, than Ecuadorians (another group that mainly has a Spanish passport), than Columbians and Pakistanis, who are the first five on the list in terms of number.

25 years ago, the presence of foreigners in Barcelona was practically testimonial. About 2% at the beginning of the Nineties. With the change of century, the graph turned into Tourmalet until in 2008 the unimaginable happened. That was when the foreigners became the second largest group, after native Barcelonans. This meant they had overtaken the number of Barcelonans born in the rest of Spain, those who think Barcelona is a good place to live, which is continuing its slow but unarguable decline. According to the latest census, this sum of factors means that only one in two Barcelonans were born in the city, one in four was born abroad, 16.9% come from othe Autonomous Communities (they were 30% in 1990) and scarcely 7.4% were born in the rest of Catalonia.

By adding and taking away the new arrivals and leavers, we can see that the total population of Barcelona has grown slightly from 2017 to 2018. A 0.23% increase is practically a straight line. There are officially 1,628,936 registered residents in Barcelona although the real figure might be different. This always happens; perhaps more so now as a result of the growing phenomenon of rented rooms. There are an increasing number of people who can't afford to buy an apartment and have to be happy with renting a room from someone else, which is an accommodation option where the owner of the apartment can put the condition that the tenant doesn't register in the building so that there is no trail for the Treasury to follow. Anyway the figure is what we've got: 1.6 million residents, 3,799 more than the previous census, thanks to 12,951 more foreigners and 9,152 fewer natives.

The census is a source of data that helps us to understand the city and possibly to predict where it's going. The small print reveals that for the first time women are the majority in the foreign segment of the population, only slightly though by 151,249 to 150,377. However, the piece of data shows that the time when men were advanced troops of immigration waiting to bring the family together is now a thing of the past. This allows that proportionately and independently of origin, the census results are still majority female. Women are 52.7% of the population but not in all age groups. There are more men than women amongst the youngest groups and also in the 35 to 44 age group. The equilibrium is abruptly broken in the over 65 age group, where another piece of data stands out. Above this age, the number of women outnumbers men by more than 50%.

At the beginning of the Eighties, the average age in Barcelona was 37. Although life expectancy was lower, which contributed to stopping the average from being high and meant Barcelona had a youthful society. It was obvious. Since then, it's got progressively older. Today, the average is 43.9. It would be worse if it weren't the foreigners residing in the city. Their average age is 33.6 while that of the indigenous population is 46.3.

The underlying problem, however, isn't that average age is in the forties but rather than suggests a pyramid. 21.5% of the population is over 65 while only 12.6% is under 14. This disproportion is repeated with different intensity in all the districts of the city. The only green spot is in Diagonal Mar, the neighbourhood with most children, who are 19.4% of the population. The other side of the coin are neighbourhoods like El Gòtic and La Barceloneta, where children are statistacally negligible group.

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