Society 18/08/2021

Only 28% of young people in Barcelona speak Catalan on a regular basis

A City Council survey shows that 58% of Barcelona residents aged between 15 and 34 were not born in the city

4 min
Restaurants in Barceloneta

BarcelonaYoung people in Barcelona speak less Catalan than we thought and leave home earlier. This is what emerges from the latest Youth Survey presented this Wednesday by the Barcelona City Council based on 1,407 interviews of young people between the ages of 15 and 34 between March and July last year. Until now, the questionnaire on young people in Barcelona only included those registered as residents in the city, but in this edition it has also included those who are not but have been living in the Catalan capital for at least six monts. It has been done "to discover the social reality of the street," explained the Councillor for Children, Youth, the Elderly and People with Disabilities, Joan Ramon Riera. And including these young people, 13.4% of those surveyed, has changed things. For a start, it makes it possible to make a more realistic estimate of how many young people there are in the city and the figure rises to 404,805. Of these, 58% were not born in Barcelona, but have come to work (33%), study (27%), with their parents or other family members (22%) or for other reasons. "We are importing young people," said Riera. However, he acknowledged that the survey does not shed any light on young people who have decided to leave Barcelona and try their luck elsewhere. "We don't know how many young people Barcelona is expelling, but we do know that it is a great centre for work that creates jobs and that life here is more expensive".

One of the main changes compared to the previous survey, which was done in 2015, is in the use of Catalan. Back then, 35.6% of young people used it regularly, while now, six years later, the percentage has dropped to 28%. On the other hand, there is an increase in the use of Spanish (from 56% to 62%), while the use of English goes from 1.7% to 2.3%. It must be taken into account that the inclusion of those not registered in the census, who until now were not consulted, may have had a great impact in the variation with respect to the previous survey. The highest percentage of Catalan speakers is in the most affluent neighbourhoods, despite the fact that even there they are not a majority (41.3%), while Catalan is least heard in the poorest neighbourhoods (13.9%), where Spanish clearly predominates (69.7%). "We have to improve and achieve greater use of Catalan", Riera concluded.

"They are brave"

Another surprise in the survey is the age at which young people leave home, described by Riera as "brave". If in 2015 only 17% of young people in Barcelona aged between 20 and 24 had left home, in 2020 the percentage had climbed to 41.1% (24 points more). In the next age bracket, between 25 and 29 years, the percentage also grows and goes from 54% in 2015 to 78% in 2020. From 30 to 34 years of age, 86.4% no longer live with their parents. Of these, 73% live in rented accommodation and 9.9% rent a room. "They are leaving home younger than we thought, they are going for it," said the councillor. However, 32.5% of those who have left the family home receive financial help from their parents, other relatives or friends.

This willingness to leave home can also be seen when it comes to making demands of the City Council, since the most common request (made by 30% of young people) is to build more social housing. In 2015 the main demand was for better job opportunities and housing was only a priority for 14% of those surveyed.

As for work, precariousness has decreased and 67% of those who work have a permanent contract. The number of young men with stable contracts is 75.9%, while among young women it is 64.9%. But salaries are still very low. They earn on average about €888 per month. "There is a problem of income among young people in the city," acknowledged Riera, who has claimed that "they make a great contribution to the city" and has argued that "they deserve more, in economic terms".

45% of young people who have left home believe they are in a lower social class than their parents, while 31% believe they are in the same and 24% in a higher social class. Even so, young people's courage is also visible in economic terms: half are convinced that they will end up with more resources than their parents. "Those who come from lower incomes are the most optimistic about making it and generating prosperity," said the councillor.

70% of young women have suffered harassment

It is surprising from the study that the main reason why young people report having felt discriminated against in the last year is because of their political beliefs (18.8%), followed by the way they dress (15.3%) and the color of their skin, ethnicity or country of origin (14.6%). Finally, the survey also asks young women whether they have been harassed since they turned fifteen by a man who they were not in a relationship with: 69.8% answered affirmatively. In most cases, the harassment occurred in public spaces (71.9%), followed by public transport (36.2%) and nightlife (32.2%). One in three girls also reported having been insulted or threatened at least once by people they were seeing.

The ideology of those surveyed has also changed after six years and after including those who are not yet registered as residents. As for Catalonia's relationship with Spain, the main change is the fall in support for independence, which is no longer majoritarian and has fallen from 38.3% (2015) to 32.9%. The desire for Catalonia to remain an autonomous community rises from 27.6% to 34.4% and becomes the majority option. The rest want it to be a state within a federal Spain (22%) or just a region in Spain (10%). In addition, 73% of young people identify as left-wing, 13% as centrists and 13.4% as right-wing. Among the latter, 0.5% say they share the values of the far right and are mainly found in lower-income neighbourhoods.

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