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Immigration is the solution to Spain's rural depopulation, according to a demography expert

Joaquín Recaño Valverde, expert in demography at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, visited the University of Navarra to discuss depopulation in Spain.

/Joaquín Recaño has offered a seminar invited by the project KiNESIS of the ICS.

30 | 11 | 2023

Depopulation is not a new problem. Although it has attracted media attention in recent years, in some parts of Spain, migration from rural areas to the cities dates back to the second half of the 19th century. Joaquín Recaño Valverde, PhD in Geography and History from the Autonomous University of Barcelona and researcher associate at the Center for Demographic programs of study , visited the University of Navarra to offer the seminar 'Some reflections on the sociodemographic determinants of recent depopulation in Spain'.

According to Recaño, rural Spain has been badly affected by depopulation, first, and then by aging. "The only thing that saves the Spanish demography is immigration, because fertility is neither there nor expected," he says. For the expert, immigration makes it possible to revitalize the demography of certain rural areas, such as the Ebro valley, where there is a lot of foreign immigrant labor mobility . However, he regrets that this immigration is very dynamic and Structures of roots are not created. In other words, immigrants end up leaving and new ones arrive.

He assures that immigration is the demographic solution for the whole of Western Europe. "We have been late to join immigration, but it is going to be an important topic in the coming decades," he says. This immigration is closely linked to niches of work, which are not going to disappear: care, hotel business, agriculture, tourism...

Front line of battle

Recaño recalls that depopulation is a historical process, therefore, when looking for solutions "we must prioritize and accompany rural areas". He explains that it is not possible to try to save all rural areas, since some are very punished by aging, lack of expectations and isolation. "Investment in services would work to provide services to those who are there, not to attract other people. That can only happen in areas that are not isolated," he laments.

However, there are municipalities core topic to alleviate depopulation: the county capitals. Although they are not interpreted as depopulation areas, because they have a certain volume, these nuclei provide services to larger rural areas and are the first line of battle against depopulation. "If you maintain the most important service centers, you are going to guarantee that part of the rural context of these cities can remain," he explains.

The expert has visited the University at the invitation of the Institute for Culture and Society in the framework of the project of research 'KiNESIS. Alliances of knowledge for social innovation in the face of depopulation', financed with a financial aid Erasmus+ of the European Union, and with the partnership of the subject "Population" of the department of History, History of Art and Geography of the School of Philosophy and Letters.