Barcelona's dwindling working class

Barcelona's dwindling working class

X-rays of Barcelona's growing and losing neighborhoods reveal several trends that have gone unnoticed. The number of registered people in the Catalan capital has increased by 10.4%, but their regional distribution is very uneven. While the city center has been repopulated in the past five years, peripheral working-class areas have seen a continuing loss of population since 2001.

Six neighborhoods have a negative population balance when comparing the 2001 and 2023 censuses: Canellis (-16%), La Genota (-2.5%), Can Peguera (-2%), Carmel, Sant Martí de Provençal (-1.5%). Vernida and Pau (-2.6%). These neighborhoods are located in the heart of the Nou Barris, Sant Martí and Horta-Guinardó districts: all urban areas during development (1960s and 1970s) with large blocks of apartments bought by working families who have lived there all their lives.

On the other hand, there is growth on the periphery of these same areas: low rents attract incumbent migration and new construction projects occupy plots of land left undeveloped. Go to Besòs, Horta, Ciutat Meridiana and Porta, for example. And in small towns like La Clota, Valbona, or Torre Barro, where any change causes the proportion to increase rapidly, you can feel the recent release of public housing.

What this disparity within a single district did was mask the decline of dwindling neighborhoods. In fact, the district's register statistics show no negative balance. Only five of them grow above average (Ciutat-Villa, Saint-Montjuïc, Sarria-Saint-Gervasi, Saint-Andreu, Saint-Martin) and the other five are below 10% (Leixample, Les Corts, Gracia, Horta-Guinardeau and Neu-Paris). ).

The most extreme case is the Canellis neighborhood in Nou Paris. Official data from Barcelona's Register crowns it the neighborhood that has lost the largest population in percentage terms since the beginning of the 21st century. The 16% decline is partly due to the neighborhood's shrinking size: it officially lost just over a thousand residents, rising from 8,090 to 6,786 over two decades. But local sources indicate that the setback is greater because it began long before the beginning of the millennium.

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It has gone somewhat unnoticed because there are no vacant lots or ghost buildings: it takes place inside homes. Simply put: in an apartment of four, five or six people today, only one or two of the elderly live after all the children are free. Canellis was born half a century ago: it was the last working-class neighborhood built by Franco's council, which in 1974 envisioned it with standards much higher than those of the first estates.

“pure zone”

“We are a very old and long-lived neighborhood: when it was built, we had a lot of people in their 30s with two or three children, and today most of us are over 70,” says Manolo Sanchez, the neighborhood president. Cinnamon Stick Residents Association and is characterized by “wide streets”, “quiet” atmosphere and “clean air”.

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The same aging is also noticeable, although with a much lower impact than on record, in Barcelona's five other declining neighbourhoods. “Everything was built there at one time, it was full of young families and the children left the neighbourhood,” sums up Albert Riccio, first vice president of the FAVB and activist in the No Paris neighborhood. “At least the per capita space is increasing,” he laughs.

Overall, Barcelona is “fundamentally rejuvenated thanks to immigration.” Availability, more than preferences, determines the distribution of this flow of arrivals: “People go where they can find a place.” Riccio concludes that in working-class neighborhoods that have almost no apartments, it is difficult for young people to go there.

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