Depopulation in Spain

Digital repopulation

Project aimed at repopulating communities that suffer from depopulation in Spain, by attracting digital workers.

Avoiding population decline in rural towns is presented as one of the greatest challenges facing Europe in general and Spain in particular, as a consequence of changes in production systems, in the economy and technology that have caused a significant migration of the inhabitants towards the great metropolises.

Source: INE: Municipal Register of Inhabitants (2001 - 2018) Ignacio Molina de la Torre

Currently in Spain 1,319 localities have less than 100 registered residents (INE), which indicates that these localities are at risk of extinction. Unfortunately, the number of towns in this situation increases year by year. Given that the population decline is progressive, it is considered worrisome when the number of inhabitants in a municipality decreases to 1000 inhabitants. If the number of people is less than 500, extinction is very likely and when the number of inhabitants decreases to 100, extinction becomes evident. Of the 8,124 Spanish municipalities, 61.3% (4,979) have less than 1,000 registered and 48.9% (3,972) less than 500 (INE).

The main cause of the migration of inhabitants to the large metropolises is the search for job opportunities. Since the possibility of generating new sources of employment in places far from large urban centers is very low, the solution presented here is to attract “geographically independent” workers to towns that are in a critical population situation.

Due to the great changes in labor dynamics and the great advance of technology, in the last decade the number of people who carry out their work remotely, known as “digital nomads”, has increased. These workers have the possibility of living or staying for different periods of time in places where there is no job creation.

The country that has the largest number of statistics on this sector of the economy, and that can be taken as representative of developed countries, is the United States. According to data from Freelancers Union from 2017, 36% of North American workers work remotely and it is projected that by 2027 these workers will make up 50.9% of the labor market. It should be noted that in 2018 56.7 million North American citizens performed their work tasks remotely, which represents 3.7 million more people than those registered in 2017. According to a survey carried out by the Upwork platform, the The third reason why people choose this type of activity is the flexibility it gives them to choose the city in which they want to live (the first is to be their own boss and the second the flexibility in terms of working days and hours ).

Profile of European digital workers:

From the results obtained from surveys carried out in Europe in 2018 by Malt (leading platform in France) and EFIP (European Forum of Independent Professionals), interesting data can be observed to consider the probability of attracting these workers to Spanish towns;

  • 41.8% of respondents are single, never married 35.3%, separated 1.6% or divorced 4.9%. In addition, the 64.3% do not have children or other dependents to care for. This means that they have the flexibility to travel by not having children, or relationships that condition them to stay in their city.
  • Currently, 67.8% of freelancers across Europe live in large cities and 17.6% in medium-sized cities, while 7.1% live in the countryside and 7.4% in small towns. 14.5% live in rural areas and there is a large percentage of workers who could follow this path.
  • The majority of the freelancers who participated in the survey (75%) said that their freelance activity was a full-time job. They have no more activities, which forces them to stay in a certain place.
  • When asked what their reasons were for choosing to become self-employed, 47% presented flexibility in their hours as an important factor, another 37% the possibility of choosing where to work. Flexibility, change and freedom are concepts that drive them and that small cities can provide.

Relevant information when considering the migration of digital nomads to small towns is their average salary;

  • 12% of those surveyed earn between € 501 and € 1000 per day.
  • 55.8% earn less than € 250 per day.
  • 30.6% earn between € 250 and € 500 per day.

The average monthly net earnings of freelancers in the last 12 months were approximately;

  • 37.2% less than € 1000
  • 26.6% between € 1000 to € 2000
  • 19.9% more than € 2000 and less than € 3000
  • 16.3% more than € 3000

The low cost of living in the villages is a strong stimulus to attract them.

The vast majority of independent workers (65.6%) work mainly from home, thus avoiding the hassle of daily commuting. 15% work mainly on the location of their clients. And 10% work mainly in coworking spaces. 75.6% affirm that they can work in an environment different from the one they are used to without any harm.

The exponential growth of coworking spaces in Europe: more than 3,000 coworking spaces in Europe in 2017. It is something that municipalities can offer at low cost.

The needs of the self-employed have not been sufficiently addressed, as until recently they were not a large enough group to take advantage of political influence. Most now think that this should change in the future: 63% believe that “freelancers” should be better recognized and supported by policy makers ”. Showing from the State that they are looking for, need and value them can be very attractive for them.

The European Commission has asked in 2018, that the definition of European SMEs be revised, to “recognize independent workers as an independent category within the definition and legitimize the smallest small companies, those that, with an increase in the 45% since 2000, they are the fastest growing segment of the EU labor market ”. It is a growing sector, there will be more and more workers to attract.

The aim of the “Digital Repopulation” project is to attract nomadic workers to unpopulated areas, both for short stays and permanent residences. This requires the joint work of municipalities, companies and NGOs linked to this sector of the economy.

Opportunities that towns can offer:

  • Cheaper accommodation than in the big ones cities.
  • Abrupt change in work environment stimulating creativity.
  • Networking, can be segmented and specialized towns by type of activity, be it: technology and programming, design and multimedia, commerce, marketing, engineering, etc. The agglutination of an entire activity in one place facilitates the interpersonal knowledge between colleagues, so that not only work but also that the public space is shared, exercising networking 24 hours a day day. Forming labor ecosystems is very productive and a small town provides the perfect setting.
  • Flexibility of the rigidity of the events that They must set the day and time. On the other hand, the worker knows that on any day of the year in a certain town people who perform a certain task are concentrated specific and can go to be integrated.
  • Recognition by the city council that summons them: it can be very stimulating and rewarding for that sector of the economy that suffers from a lack of public representation.

Realization of the project

In our analysis, the task must be divided into three stages, and be carried out by someone capable of coordinating a working group composed of: the state, companies, NGOs and the interested community, setting clear work guidelines and completion times. It is imperative to start immediately with the development of the works, not because this is the guaranteed solution, but because every day the situation becomes more complex.

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