Salvador Salas
Almost half of Malaga province's municipalities are at risk of losing population in the next four years

Almost half of Malaga province's municipalities are at risk of losing population in the next four years

A study by the provincial authority (Diputación) classifies the levels as very high, high and moderate and it mainly affects the inland villages

Antonio M. Romero

Friday, 14 June 2024, 11:45

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Population forecasts in Malaga province paint a paradoxical picture with two opposing sides. On the one hand, the National Statistics Institute (INE) predicts that the province could reach two million inhabitants by 2040; a growth which, if the trend of recent years continues, would be concentrated in the city, the large towns on the coast and their closest areas of influence. On the other hand, almost half of the province's 103 municipalities, mainly in the inland districts, are at risk of suffering a loss of inhabitants in the next four years, according to a report by the Servicio de Atención al Despoblamiento del Territorio (territorial depopulation service), which depends on the provincial authority (Diputación).

The study, consulted by this newspaper, analyses the trend in population behaviour between 2019 and 2023 and makes a diagnosis of the situation for the period until 2027 - when the current term of office of the local corporations ends - revealing that there are 45 localities in danger of losing population, although to varying degrees. Thus, fifteen are at very high risk, appearing in the report marked in red and, consequently, measures and actions focused on alleviating the effects of depopulation have "very high" priority; nineteen others are at high risk (orange level); and the rest are at moderate risk (yellow).

The municipalities in the red band are those whose populations have dropped annually since 2019, whose populations dropped in both 2022 and 2023 and those that only lost residents in 2023 but whose population does not exceed 1,000. The ranking is headed by three villages in the province's northern district (Nororma): Cuevas Bajas, Villanueva de Algaidas and Villanueva de Tapia.

From the Serranía de Ronda there are six municipalities in the red band - Benaoján, Serrato, Cartajima, Benadalid, Jimera de Líbar and Júzcar; three are from the Sierra de las Nieves (Alozaina, El Burgo and Yunquera); two from the Axarquía (Moclinejo and Árchez) and one from the Guadalhorce Valley - Valle de Abdalajís.

Among those whose priority is classed as "high" are four municipalities of more than 1,000 inhabitants that have lost population in the last year (Teba, Cuevas del Becerro, La Viñuela and Gaucín); nine of them are villages that between 2019 and 2023 have lost residents in alternate years with a negative population rate in the same period (Almargen, Cañete la Real, Alfarnate, El Borge, Cómpeta, Cútar, Benarrabá, Cortes de la Frontera and Pujerra); while the remaining six are villages that do not meet either of the above two criteria but have a population of under 500 (Alfarnate, Alpandeire, Benalauría, Faraján, Genalguacil and Salares).

A striking case is that of Ronda, the only municipality of more than 20,000 inhabitants included in the report

In the yellow "moderate" band, there are eleven localities, which have different circumstances. Carratraca, Igualeja, Jubrique and Montejaque are included in this range because, although they do not meet any of the criteria of the previous levels and even their population rates between 2019 and 2023 are in the green, they are localities with between 500 and 1,000 inhabitants; the same applies to Atajate and Parauta, although these municipalities are below half a thousand residents. The last five localities have more than 3,000 inhabitants and are included in the ranking because their demographic evolution is considered to require careful monitoring, according to the study. These are Campillos, Archidona, Alameda, Arriate and Ronda.

The most striking case is the town of Ronda, the only municipality with more than 20,000 inhabitants included in the report. Its population has stagnated at around 33,400 residents with a loss in residents between 2019 and 2023. In that period the four localities that, according to the study, showed the most negative population change were Cuevas Bajas, Villanueva de Algaidas, Villanueva de Tapia and Ronda.

Differentiated taxation

Antonio Ledesma, the provincial authority's third vice-president and head of Social Innovation and Depopulation, explained that this report is the result of the meetings held by the different areas of the institution and its conclusions are a diagnosis to establish the priorities where action must be taken to halt population losses.

In this sense, Ledesma emphasised the actions that are being developed in terms of institutional coordination with the Junta and the town councils and pointed out that one challenge, which is not the responsibility of the Diputación, is that there should be differentiated taxation to encourage investment because "those who open a business in the city should not pay the same as those who open a business in Gaucín".

She also highlighted the enhancement of opportunities in the municipalities (quality of life, safety, nature); the promotion of a new rural economy in sectors such as eco-agriculture, renewable energies or activities focused on care for the elderly; the fight against financial exclusion and the digital divide with information and advice programmes; the improvement of mobility and, related to this, the possibilities offered by the villages with housing at more affordable prices than in the big cities; and the promotion of rural identity and pride.

Socialists see the data as "worrying"

The PSOE spokesman in the Diputación, Josele González, described the report's data as "very worrying" and denounced the fact that since the PP has been at the head of the Diputación the province has "less cohesion and territorial equality". "This is the consequence of the fact that under the PP the provincial authority has ceased to be an institution at the service of the people and has become an administration that allocates millions of dollars in investments to the large municipalities, all of which are governed by the PP itself. It is urgent that the Diputación recovers its true raison d'être and the reason for its existence: assistance and attention to the small municipalities, which are precisely those that are suffering from this phenomenon of depopulation," said González in response to SUR's questions, while calling for the implementation of a provincial strategy against depopulation.

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