The area gained 20,652 inhabitants in 2021 and represents 41% of the additional population of the country
The province of Malaga is becoming the biggest magnet for people in the whole country. In 2021, for the second consecutive year, it is the province of Spain that has gained the most new inhabitants, in absolute terms as well as a proportion of its previous population.
According to the latest figures, as of January 1 of this year, the 103 municipalities of the province of Malaga had a total of 1,716,303 inhabitants. This is exactly 20,652 more than a year earlier, and an increase of 1.22%. This puts Malaga at the top of population growth in Spain. In fact, Malaga alone accounts for 41% of the 50,490 people who have come to this country or registered as residents in the past year.
It is no coincidence that the provinces just below Malaga in the ranking of population growth in 2021 are all on the Mediterranean coast: Alicante (+15,561), Valencia (+13,813), Murcia (+12 953), Almería (+7,501), Tarragona (+6,915), Barcelona (+6,181) and Girona (+5,698). It is striking, on the other hand, that the region of Madrid lost almost 6,800 inhabitants and is the second province with a downward trend in absolute terms after Asturias, which lost 7,293 of its population.
The increase in population in the province of Malaga was greater in 2021 than in 2020, when it gained 12,747 inhabitants thanks to the arrival or registration of people from other regions and countries, qu whether they are retired or of working age.
It seems that the trend triggered by the pandemic is continuing: the province, and in particular the city of Malaga and the Costa del Sol, is proving attractive to people who want to move for various reasons: from those who want to retire to a pleasant place, with good communications and services, to those who are looking for job opportunities or, taking advantage of the fact that they can work from home, to others who decide to prioritize their quality of life and get away from big cities.
For Jesús Delgado, lecturer who heads the geography department at the University of Malaga, there is an indisputable relationship between the strong population growth of recent years and the “soft moment” that Malaga is experiencing.
“The city has become world famous, not only as a tourist destination, but also as a hub for attracting talent and investment, as multinationals like Google and Vodafone have set up shop here,” he says. “The additional media coverage came amid an increase in remote working, which means many people are realizing they don’t have to live where they work.”
Malaga’s situation is part of a more general trend: “the attraction of the Spanish coast as a dynamic axis attracts a lot of people, unlike the exodus from rural areas”, explains Delgado.
The data supports his theory: Castilla y León and Asturias are the regions that have lost the most population in the past year.
“The crisis in rural areas, far from being resolved, is getting worse,” Delgado said.
Malaga’s appeal as a place to live has been so great that population forecasts from just six years ago by the Institute of Statistics and Cartography of Andalusia (IECA) have been considerably lower. They indicated that by the year 2040 the province of Malaga will have 1,722,000 inhabitants, but the figure is already very close to that: it only takes 6,000 more to reach it.
Jesús Delgado believes that it is likely that this strong population growth will continue in the coming years, which will bring Malaga to a situation where its population level will create new challenges and aggravate already existing problems such as traffic, shortage water and wastewater treatment facilities.
“In view of these figures, the planning must be carried out now by those who govern us, so that Malaga does not become a victim of its own success,” he said.
Spain’s population growth resumed in 2021, with an increase of 50,490 people after a sharp reduction of more than 106,000 during the year of lockdown. INE figures show that 2020 marked a painful break in the uptrend that began in 2016.
The jump in population is explained by the arrival of foreigners. Last year, Spain’s foreign population increased by 72,410 people, mainly due to the arrival of people from non-EU countries, but also thanks to the return of 13,400 people from other European countries that had returned to their place of origin because of the pandemic.