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Growing poverty threatens to divide Barcelona into “two cities”

Up to 222,581 people are living below poverty limits, almost nine time mores than in 2008


31 May 2017 06:40 PM



Even though general figures of economic growth and the job market confirm that Barcelona “is coming out of the crisis”, the annual Employment Report for Barcelona, presented by the Social Council of Barcelona (CESB) on Monday, shows that there is a clear trend towards “two cities”: one that is recovering from the crisis and one that remains “deeply embedded” in permanent unemployment. In declarations to the press, the CESB’s acting president, Vicenç Tarrats, explained that while in 2008 25,000 people were living below the poverty limit in Barcelona (making less than 60% of the minimum wage), in 2015 this situation already applied to 222,581 people, almost nine times more than in 2008. Poverty has also expanded geographically, from 5 to 17 neighborhoods, concentrated in the northeast of the city. Tarras assured that the CESB will pay special attention to these “vulnerable” neighborhoods in order to maintain “the model of social cohesion that characterized Barcelona before the crisis”.

The figures for the city as a whole “are starting to be positive'' and “in general terms it can be said that Barcelona is coming out of the crisis,” stated Tarrats. However, he warned that this “recovery” '”is leaving marks behind”, which translates into the consolidation of poverty zones in the city. 

The report indicates that although in 2008 there were five neighborhoods below the poverty limit, the 2015 figures show that this number has risen to 17 neighborhoods: 11 in Nou Barris, two in Sant Andreu, two in Sant Martí, one in Sants–Montjuïc and one in Horta-Guinardó. Tarrats added that the neighborhoods most affected by poverty are located in the northeast of the Catalan capital and coincide with the zones where permanent unemployment has become ''deeply embedded”.


  • “There is a Barcelona that is recovering and that progresses and there is a Barcelona that is staying behind”

    Vicenç TarratsSocial Council of Barcelona's acting President 

In absolute figures, the city has gone from 25,000 persons with an income below the poverty limit to 222,581 affected persons, multiplying the number of people living in poverty or in risk of poverty by nine, which translates into an increase from 2% to 14%.

The CSEB considers this data “worrisome” because it shows the consolidation of a “trend towards two cities”.  “There is a Barcelona that is recovering and that progresses and there is a Barcelona that is staying behind.” Tarras promised that the Economic and Social Council of Barcelona plans to pay special attention to these “vulnerable” neighborhoods with the objective “of not losing the model of social cohesion that characterized Barcelona before the crisis”. 

Looking at the positive figures, Tarrats highlights that 586,300 people were employed in 2016, which means an increase of 5.6% in relation to 2015. However, the report also indicates that employment is still 10.1% below the figures registered at the end of 2008 at the beginning of the crisis.

In relation to employment quality, in 2016 permanent contracts increased by 3.7% while temporary employment increased by 15.1%. The report also indicates that in 2016, 81.5% of all contracts were permanent (in 2015 the percentage was of 83.1%), while 18.5% of the contracts were temporary (16.9% in 2015).

In terms of unemployment, at the end of 2016 around 101,200 persons were registered as unemployed, which means a decrease of 7% compared to 2015. The profile of an average unemployed person in Barcelona is ‘female between 25 and 54 years old and in a situation of long-term unemployment”. The unemployment rate registered on December 31, 2016 was 11.5%, which is 1.6 percentage points less than in 2015. The data from the Occupation Service of Catalonia confirmed that unemployment was 11.8% less than 2015, but still 6.1% more than in 2008.


  • A volunteer working on Friday at the 'Gran Recapte' (by P. Solà)

  • A volunteer working on Friday at the 'Gran Recapte' (by P. Solà)