Covid shoots up mortality by 32% in Barcelona and sinks births

The city loses 0.4% of its population but slows the trend of many residents moving to small towns during lockdown

3 min
Pelai street

BarcelonaThe impact of covid can already begin to be measured. The reading of the data of the Barcelona census shows that the pandemic has marked a historic peak of deaths in the city: 18,926; the highest figure since 1900 with the only exceptions of the years of the Civil War (28,000) and the Spanish flu (22,800). Last year 31.7% more people died than the previous year and covid was responsible for the fact that there were 4,305 more deaths than expected in the city taking into account the latest statistics.

2020 was the toughest year of the pandemic and also saw a slowdown in the birth rate in the city: there were fewer than 12,000 births, 6.4% less than in 2019 and the second lowest figure in the last 50 years. This, added to the almost neutral migratory flows - which were the ones that in recent years made the population of the city grow - now translates into a loss of 0.4% of the inhabitants in just one year. A figure that breaks with the trend of smooth growth of the last five years.

On 1 January 2021, Barcelona had 1,660,314 registered inhabitants, 6,200 fewer than a year earlier. The less negative reading that the City Council makes of these data is that, in addition to the sudden impact of the pandemic, the population continues to want to live in the city and the trend of people moving to smaller towns in search of calm and open spaces has slowed down. After the first estimation of data in February this year warned of an inclination to flee the city, which had then lost more than 13,000 residents, the data do not now maintain those levels of flight.

"The announcement of the death of the city is a classic, but it continues to be an attractive space", sums up Jordi Martí, Councillor for the Presidency, who at the beginning of the year already radiographed that many of those who left did so "with the city under their arms" to smaller municipalities but very connected to Barcelona to continue living there. "Now people have returned", he adds. Between June and December, just after the total closure, departures to other municipalities in Catalonia grew by 27%. The overall data now show that there was a tendency to choose as a destination other points of Catalonia, which concentrated 70% of the outflows, four points above the data of 2016.

Effects on life expectancy

Mortality in 2020, much of which is associated with covid, has affected women and older people more. In fact, the average age of the deceased has rebounded somewhat: 82.4 years. The City Council does not yet have data on the impact of the virus on life expectancy, but it is assumed that there will be a decrease. For more than three decades now, more people have been dying in Barcelona every year than are born, and if the city is adding inhabitants, it is because of the arrival of foreign population, but what 2020 does is to stretch the two data to extremes: more deaths (18,926) and fewer births (11,753).

The negative demographic balance is generalised throughout the city with the sole exception of Ciutat Vella, while Sarrià and the Eixample are the areas where the gap between births and deaths is most noticeable. As for the migratory balance (immigrants minus emigrants) and administrative balance (additions to the census by omission minus cancellations due to improper registration or expiration), the result is positive, the city adds 1,492 people, but this figure is 80% below the average of the last ten years. The people who arrive are mostly young adults who come mainly from neighbouring cities such as Hospitalet and Badalona. The population arriving from abroad comes mainly from Argentina and Colombia and the rise of citizens from the United Kingdom becomes a highlight, since just before Brexit they occupied the ninth place in the table and have now climbed to third.

Another change that may be linked to the effects of covid is the decrease in the number of households: there are now 660,063 and this represents a drop of more than 4,000 compared to 2019. A more pronounced drop than that of the number of inhabitants that the council attributes in part to a readjustment of the calculation system, but also to the decision of many families to regroup in the context of the pandemic. There are 203,781 people living alone and the most common situation is to find flats with two inhabitants.

The average age of Barcelona residents remains stable at 44 years old and, for the second consecutive year, more than 50% were not born in the city, but have come from outside of it. Women also continue to predominate, representing 52.4% of the population. The northern and western areas of the city have the highest concentration of children, while Horta-Guinardó, Nou Barris, Les Corts and Sant Martí are the oldest districts.

Maria and Antonio

The most frequent names among women living in the city are Maria, Montserrat, Marta, Carmen and Núria, but they vary greatly depending on the decade of birth. Among the youngest girls, Emma, Sofia and Julia predominate, while among those born in the previous decade, Martina and Laia also occupy places on the podium. As for men, the most common names in the city are Antonio, José, Jordi, David and Manuel and the most common among those just born are Pol, Bruno and Marc.