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A view of Malaga city. SUR
Malaga province grows more than any other part of Spain as foreigners push numbers up

Malaga province grows more than any other part of Spain as foreigners push numbers up

Benalmádena, Marbella and Mijas saw the biggest growth in population while inland towns declined, based on latest data from January 2022

Friday, 27 January 2023

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The foreign population has increased in all the large coastal towns in Malaga province according to the latest official population data.

This influx of different nationalities helped Malaga to grow its population more than any other province in Spain at the start of 2022, the figures revealed.

New information from the government's INE statistics office, based on the town hall padrón (or census) on 1 January last year, has also shown that the biggest rises in residents on a year earlier were along the main Costa del Sol municipalities, close to the sea, while there was a continued fall in population in the inland areas of the province.

Foreigners now account for nearly 17 per cent of the population in Malaga province, but in some municipalities it is far higher The increase in British residents was not the same across all major Costa municipalities

Malaga city

The case of Malaga city is especially interesting as the foreign population grew by 2,636 between 2021 and 2022 but the number of people with Spanish nationality declined by almost 1,000. This in part can be explained by property prices rising in the provincial capital, forcing many to seek homes in neighbouring towns. Malaga city had a population of 579,076 in January last year, according to the recently released data.

After Malaga city, Marbella is the second most important place for foreigners to live in the province: their numbers in the town grew by 2,372 in 2021. In this case, there was no loss of Spanish population as there was in Malaga city. In fact, in Marbella, the Spanish population grew too. There was an overall population increase of nearly 2,800, taking the total number of inhabitants in Marbella to more than 150,000.

This was the second-biggest overall growth in population in the province after only Benalmádena, which tops the list after having gained nearly 3,000 inhabitants in a year (of whom 1,850 were foreigners).

Mijas and Estepona saw net increases which were similar to that of Marbella, of 2,758 and 2,568 respectively (of whom 1,312 and 1,747 were foreign nationals).

Top five

In summary, the top five overall population increases in Malaga province between 2021 and 2022 were, in this order, in Benalmádena, Marbella, Mijas, Estepona and Malaga. But it is also worth noting that the next two on the list, Torrox and Benahavís, have also experienced significant increase in population in relation to their size, gaining around 1,000 each.

In the case of Torrox, which has nearly 20,000 residents, the increase was 5.6 per cent, while the population of Benahavís grew by 12 per cent to 8,763. In both cases, there is a large foreign population.

By contrast, the biggest falls in population can be seen in the inland towns of Ronda and Antequera, which lost 223 and 164 residents in one year respectively. In the case of Ronda, the population growth has been negative for the past five years, during which time it has lost nearly 1,000 inhabitants.

Of the 103 municipalities in Malaga province, the population dropped in 38 of them in 2021. All of them have something in common: they have no beaches.

Many nationalities

Altogether, Malaga province gained 21,853 inhabitants in 2021, reaching 1.72 million. This was the biggest increase in the whole of the country. Two-thirds of this growth (14,343) was due to foreign immigration.

Despite Brexit, the nationality which grew the most was British. This was followed by Italian, Argentinian, German, Russian, Colombian, French, Venezuelan, Moroccan and Polish. This ranking varies by municipality: in Malaga city, for example, it was not the British community that grew the most in the year but the Italian one.

Foreigners now account for approaching 17 per cent of the population in Malaga province, but in some municipalities it is far higher than that. In fact in one of them, Benahavís, foreign residents are now the majority: six out of every ten people living in this prosperous village is from abroad.

The high proportion of immigrants is also striking in some small villages in the Axarquía region, such as Cómpeta and Sayalonga, where they account for over 40 per cent of the registered population.

Most cosmopolitan

Among the bigger towns in the province, the most cosmopolitan are Fuengirola, where 37 per cent of the population is foreign, and neighbouring Mijas with 32 per cent.

There are also some medium-sized towns such as Torrox, Manilva and Nerja, where the proportion of foreign residents is over 35 per cent.

Malaga city, however, is at the other extreme and below the average for the province with nine per cent non-Spanish residents, although due to the size of the city, it has the most foreigners in absolute terms.

The city of Malaga is proving increasingly attractive to foreign residents but not so much to local people and those from elsewhere in Spain.

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