urbanization

urbanization
   Just over half of Spain's population, or 20 million people, live in towns of more than 50,000 inhabitants, and three-quarters in towns of more than 10,000 inhabitants. In two provinces (Madrid and Cadiz) urbanization is above 90 percent, and in ten others it is above 80 percent. Regionally, the greatest density of population is found in the autonomous community of Madrid, with 626 inhabitants per square kilometre, the average for Spain being just 78. The Basque country has a density of 295 inhabitants per square kilometre, and the Canaries of 219. Above average densities of between 100 and 200 are found in the regions of Catalonia (191), Valencia (168), the Balearics (149), Asturias (104), and Cantabria (101). The lowest densities are found in Castile-La Mancha (21), Extremadura (25), Aragon (25), and Castile-León (27). Spain has fifty-five cities of between 50,000 and 100,000 inhabitants and another fifty-five of more than 100,000. The largest conurbations are Madrid (3.1m), Barcelona (1.7m), Valencia (0.77m), Seville (0.72m), Zaragoza (0.61m) and Málaga (0.53m). The shift of population to urban centres intensified in the 1960s, as agricultural labourers left an impoverished countryside in search of jobs in the industrial and services sectors. In the twentyfive years to 1975 the proportion of the population living in cities of more than 100,000 people doubled. The largest cities grew fastest, but virtually all provincial capitals grew at the expense of small towns and villages. Estimates of the number of abandoned villages vary between 2,000 and 3,000. The counterpart of rural depopulation was the near uncontrolled growth of cities, with unsightly apartment blocks and shanty-town-style suburban belts without proper roads, sanitation or other services. It was only in the 1970s and 1980s that corrective action was taken, planning controls were established, and the shanty towns became less numerous. From 1975 onwards, urbanization continued, but at a moderate pace and with an altered pattern. Whereas during the Francoist period it was the large conurbations of Madrid, Barcelona and Bilbao that had the highest growth rates, in the late 1970s and 1980s it was peripheral provincial capitals like Málaga, Seville, Alicante and Las Palmas that grew fastest, together with certain non-capitals geared to specific roles, such as Algeciras (international maritime trade) or Marbella (tourism). Losses from the more isolated rural areas, but also from underdeveloped provincial capitals such as Orense, Teruel or Zamora, continued, but in the late 1980s and 1990s the rural exodus was partly reversed by the tendency of prosperous urban dwellers to acquire country properties for weekends and vacations. Twenty-two percent of house owners in Spain have a second home.
   The growth of the cities since the 1950s cannot be divorced from other transformations of the social fabric: changes in the labour market, as people move to jobs in services; a massive increase in educational enrolments; improvements in health care; and the emergence of a progressive, permissive society with a more homogeneous lifestyle and widely shared social attitudes.
   Further reading
   - De Miguel, A. (1992) La sociedad española 199293, Madrid: Alianza (pp. 112–31 contain an interesting comparison of the urban and rural worlds).
   —— (1994) La sociedad española 1993-94, Madrid: Alianza (pp. 102–28 contain an important study of the changing nature of the urbanizing process).
   - Hooper, J. (1995) The New Spaniards, Harmondsworth: Penguin (chapter 20, on housing, looks at the way the government tried to cope with the urban explosion).
   C. A. LONGHURST

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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