Situated in the middle of a region where loss of population is the norm (with five out of eight provinces in Andalucía in decline), Malaga and the Costa del Sol's ability to attract new residents continues.
According to the last padrón, (the local town halls' official census), the province gained 9,171 new residents last year (a 0.6% increase). On 1 January 2018, the number of residents stood at 1,639,786. This increase is greater than the sum of the changes in the other provinces combined. Without Malaga and the Costa del Sol's pulling power, Andalucía would have lost almost 12,000 residents. The decline elsewhere in Andalucía was mostly felt in Jaén (-5,802 residents) and Cordoba (-3,367).
Malaga province's population growth accelerated in 2017. In the year it achieved its largest increase since 2012. In national rankings, the number of new residents was the sixth largest.
This increase is a result of changes to both the native and the foreign populations. In concrete terms, last year Malaga province gained 4,755 new Spanish residents and 4,416 of other nationalities. This last figure signals a reversal of the recent trend of a diminishing foreign population.
What has changed? To answer this question we need to look back over the last few years when the number of European residents on the Costa del Sol and in Malaga province decreased drastically, especially the British population, which was and still is the biggest nationality.
Since 2013, the number of British people registered on the censuses at town halls has fallen by 40%. Other nationalities, such as the Finnish have also diminished. This trend has been explained as due to a mix of the ever-increasing age of foreign residents and a decrease in local purchasing power forcing them home, plus the new rule imposed on town halls which states that if a foreign national fails to renew themselves as a resident for a certain number of years, town councils must take them off the census even if they still live here.
And this trend continued last year. The large British population continues to fall (at least according to the official statistics): last year saw 1,614 fewer registered Brits. Numbers from Ireland and Finland are also dwindling. Overall, Malaga province lost 1,000 residents net from EU member countries.
Venezuela leads the way
If these nationalities have diminished, which have grown? The biggest arrivals are the Venezuelans. Last year, more than 800 people came to Malaga seeking refuge status from Venezuela. This number is striking, especially when compared with past figures, as it represents an increase of 30% in just one year.
Alejandro Cortina, director of Malaga Acoge, a charity which helps to integrate immigrants into Malaga, doesn't have any doubts about their motive: “The exodus is linked to the political situation in Venezuela combined with the fact that Spain has a policy of accepting refugees into the country”. Of those nationalities seeking asylum in Spain in 2017, the largest proportion were from Venezuela. Of the 3,600 people that solicited the services of Malaga Acoge last year, 260 were from Venezuela. Moroccans are the organisation's most frequent visitors.
Cortina worries for those who have arrived here in order to escape war or political hardship. “Decisions regarding immigration documents are often made slowly or delayed. This means that people will live here uncertain about their future.”
Ukraine is another country whose natives are moving into the province. In 2017, Malaga gained 449 more Ukrainians, the third largest population increase by nationality, after Venezuela and Colombia.
The Ukrainian population in Spain has always been numerous on the Mediterranean coast, originally made up of women who came in search of domestic service jobs and later brought their families. “This recent increase in immigration has been brought about by Ukraine's political situation,” affirms Cortina.
In terms of continents, the largest influx of migrants came from the Americas, with 3,060 new residents coming from this continent, the majority being Venezuelan, Colombian, Paraguayan, Brazilian and from the US. Second is those from Asia (1,184 more registered residents). African immigration has grown at a moderate pace, with 147 new registered immigrants. Moroccans are the most common African nationality in Malaga.