dissabte, 5 de setembre del 2009

An incredible growth

Today I may sound a bit of a bore because I will tell you about facts and figures of Catalonia. I mainly do it because I think it will be somehow useful and will make you have a better statistical idea of Catalonia. I know statistics are only about numbers and generalisations but we always find in them a way to get a global idea of things. In the end, they are not so uninteresting...

Let's set for the trip to Facts and figures land then!

Population: growth and immigration
In 1900, Catalonia had a population of about two million people. After only 108 years, in 2008, the population has multiplied almost per 4. There are now about 7,365,000 people living in the area. How can we explain such an astronomical growth in such a short period? The answer is simple and logical: two waves of immigration, one in the sixties and the other one from the nineties till now (it seems to have stopped a little bit because of the current economical crisis).

Immigration in the 60s - INTRAnational immigration:
This first wave of immigration took place during Franco's time and immigrants were people inside Spain (mainly Andalusians, but also people for Extremadura, in western Spain) who set for Catalonia seeking for a job and a better life. They also set for Europe and went to work mainly in Germany. The difference with the Spaniards who went to Germany and the ones who came to Catalonia is that the first ones came back to Spain after some years, while the other usually settled in Catalonia, most of them in Barcelona and its surrounding areas.

The Spanish immigrants who came to Catalonia mainly came from rural areas, scaping from poverty. Catalonia, as one of the economic engine of Spain had a lot of industry and was far richer than other areas at the time. In only ten years, the population increased almost two million: from 3,888,485 in 1960 to 5,107,606 in 1970.

Some weeks ago, I watched a TV documentary about shacks in Barcelona during this wave of immigration. I knew that life for this people must have been hard, but I was struck of what some of them had to endure and how and where they had to live. There are no rest of these shacks in Barcelona now, as they were progressively swept away in the late seventies and the eighties, when the city was getting itself ready for its major event: the Olympic Games of 1992.

Immigration in the 90s and 2000s - INTERnational immigration:

After the first wave of immigration, the population kept growing in a less accelerated pace. But nineties arrived and new immigrants arrived. This time it is a more diversified immigration and not only a Catalan matter, it is a global phenomenon in the whole of Spain.

This time population also grew, but, although figures are also noticeable, they are not so high as the ones in the first wave of immigrants: from 1991 to 2008 the population in Catalonia increased from six million to the current figure of 7,365,000 million.

As I have pointed out, this time immigration is international. Mostly, immigrants come from:
- Latin and Southamerican (all countries, but a lot of them from Ecuador, Colombia, Perú, Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil). All of them, except from Brazilians do not have the added problem of language.
- Africa (Morocco, Gambia and Senegal mainly)
- Asia (China, Pakistan and India mainly)
- Eastern Europeans (Rumanians)

If all these people come in search of a better life, there is another group that come for completely different reasons. This group people are mainly from the European Union, Italians being the star group, followed by France and Germany.

Nowadays there are 974,743 foreigners living in Catalonia (legally), which represents a 13,2% of the total population. The figure includes not only the groups I've mentioned but people from other places as well.

This has indeed creating a "melting pot" in Catalonia. It is difficult to know if it is good or bad for Catalonia. It blurs "Catalan identity" but it also brings cultural richness. I think that the problem lies in that we haven't find the way to make our culture attractive. and the cultures of this people are so different that we don't really know how to handle them. We still need to learn a lot f rom each other. As a Catalan, I would ideally like them to integrate, to enjoy the culture here and to speak Catalan, but at the same time I understand why they don't.

On the other hand, immigrants have kept the population of Catalonia growing: the birthrate in Catalonia was of 0,8 children per woman in 2002 (by the way, I never understood why they put commas in birthrate...as if a woman could have half a child or a 75% child), and two years ago it had grown perceptilbly.

2009, however, has brought crisis and the number of newcomers is decreasing and some people are going back to their countries, to be nearer the ones who had been left behind when they parted. This tendency has been made evident with the decrease in the number of immigrant children registered to attend school (which will begin on September 15th, I think)

The funny ending note:
I still remember, that in my childhood and teenage years propaganda saying "Som sis milions", ie "We are six million" (I also heard a mockery, around year 2000-01, about that and related to the decrease in birth rate: "Per culpa dels condons som sis milions", which makes a funny rhyme and means "because of condoms we are six million"). This was a campaign launched by the then president Jordi Pujol in 1987, but it has survived time and it is still in the air, now with "Som 7 milions", just for the sake of making fun of it. Will we get to 8 million soon? Anyhow, the rhyme still works, but I guess that the campaign was thinking of "increasing the number of Catalans", as the party which launched them was catalanist...

Bibliography: Figures of population are taken from the Statistic Institute of Catalonia (Idescat),
at http://www.idescat.cat/pub/?id=aec&n=245
For a detailed account of immigration figures and origin of immigrants,
see http://www.idescat.cat/pub/?id=aec&n=272
Note: some information has been picked out from what I see living in Barcelona every day.