According to the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (FEMP) in its paper Population and depopulation in Spain 2016, at least 4,000 villages are in imminent danger of disappearing altogether due to the ongoing ‘demographic haemorrhage’.
The worst-affected provinces are those of Teruel (Aragón), Cuenca (Castilla-La Mancha) and Soria (Castilla y León) – in fact, throughout the region of Aragón itself, some 80% of inhabitants live in villages with fewer than 300 residents, the majority of which have as few as 30 on their census.
Spain has a total of 8,125 villages declared ‘endangered species’ by the FEMP report and, as a result, the population has gone down in the last year alone in 36 out of the country’s 50 provinces.
And since the 1990s, a total of 358 villages have seen their headcount drop to below 100 residents.
Aragón, Galicia, Asturias and Castilla y León are the most at-risk regions and, between them, make up around half of mainland Spain.
In the cast of Castilla y León, six of its provinces are in the top 10 in the country suffering the most from a consistently plummeting population – Zamora, Ávila, León, Segovia, Soria and Salamanca.
Cuenca is joint second, in percentage terms, with Ávila, whilst Ourense (Galicia) is fourth and Ciudad Real (Castilla-La Mancha) fifth, with Teruel 10th.
Over half of Spain’s villages – 4,955, in fact – have fewer than 1,000 inhabitants and, all counted together, total fewer than 1.5 million people.
With Madrid’s population sitting at just under 3.2 million, residents in these villages would fit comfortably in half of the capital with room to spare.
In terms of actual numbers, over 90% of villages in Soria, Burgos (Castilla y León), Ávila, Zamora, Salamanca and Teruel (pictured), in that order, have fewer than 1,000 residents.
And well over 80% of villages in Guadalajara (Castilla-La Mancha), Palencia (Castilla y León), Zaragoza (Aragón), Valladolid (Castilla y León), Segovia, Huesca (Aragón) and Cuenca do not reach four-figure population numbers.
Currently, 1,286 villages in Spain have fewer than 100 inhabitants, compared with 928 in the year 2000, and the total population of these 1,286 villages comes to under 75,000 – a figure that would fit in the Valencia province seaside town of Gandia with plenty of space left for more.
Even some provincial capitals reflect their wider panorama: Teruel city’s complete population would fit into Gandia three times.
By contrast, the 143 towns and cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants in Spain make up nearly six million, over half of whom live in Madrid.
The FEMP says the depopulation risk is driven by two factors: low birth rates, which have been in continual decline since even before the financial crisis and fell more sharply still with the recession – leading to an ageing population which is not regenerating itself – plus lack of job opportunities in isolated rural areas, meaning those of working age migrate to larger towns and cities.