event_note Press Release
The population of Catalonia has reached 8 million, with an estimated figure of 8,005,784 inhabitants on 1 November 2023, according to the advance population estimates of the Statistical Institute of Catalonia (Idescat). Of these, 4,065,088 are women and 3,940,696 are men. Seventy-three per cent of the population of Catalonia resides in Barcelona, 11% in Tarragona, 10% in Girona and 6% in Lleida.
Catalonia has experienced large migratory waves while the contribution of natural growth has played a comparatively minor role, though it has almost always been positive. However, since 2018 Catalonia has experienced a negative natural growth: every year there are fewer births than deaths. According to the population projections of the Statistical Institute of Catalonia (Idescat), this trend is expected to continue over the coming decades. This situation has been observed for many years in some neighbouring countries, and it suggests that future population growth will be more moderate than in previous decades and will depend mainly on migration levels.
Taking a long-term perspective, since 1900, the population of Catalonia has doubled twice in periods of approximately six decades: 2 to 4 million and 4 to 8 million. Until the 1950s, Catalonia's share of the population of Spain was around 11%, but rapid growth in the 1960s and '70s increased the proportion of the Catalan population to 16% in 1981, and in recent decades this proportion has remained stable.
The population of Catalonia has grown from 6 to 8 million between 1987 and 2023. During this time, the demographics have changed in many respects. In particular the population has aged, thanks to the increase in life expectancy, which is the main positive result of the demographic trend in recent decades. The greater diversity of nationalities among the population, the rise in the age of motherhood and greater participation of women in the world of work are some of the indicators offered by Idescat on its website that reveal the main transformations in the population of Catalonia over the last 35 years. For example:
The population of Catalonia from a historical perspective
At the beginning of the 20th century, Catalonia had a population of 2 million. The first third of the 20th century was characterised by an increase in population, especially due to declining mortality and immigration. Growth slowed down for several years during the Civil War and the post-war period.
In the 1950s, '60s and early '70s, there was a significant increase in migration from the rest of Spain, reflecting movements from rural to urban areas. From 1950 to 1980 there was an estimated positive migratory balance of 1.4 million people, which represented the largest migratory flow in relative terms ever recorded in Catalonia. At the same time, in the 1960s and '70s, there was an increase in the birth rate in Catalonia. This was the so-called baby boom, which also took place in the rest of the Western world, although it arrived a few years late in Catalonia and Spain.
In the 1980s and '90s the population hardly grew at all, as the birth rate declined and migration was negative (more outflows than inflows). But the beginning of the 21st century saw a new wave of migration, this time from abroad. In a decade, the population grew by more than a million people, mainly due to immigration.
From 2010 onwards, growth slowed down, due to the return of some immigrants to their country of origin and a decline in the birth rate. However, in the second half of the decade, the population started to grow again and, after a pause due to the Covid-19 crisis, it experienced rapid growth driven by an increase in international migration.