The number of Catalans residing abroad reached an all-time high in 2020 according to data recently published by Catalonia’s Statistics Institute (Idescat). On 1 January 2021 there were 340.514 Catalans registered at Spanish consulates abroad, 2.82% more than 12 months prior. Although this means there are more Catalans abroad than ever before, this yearly increase is the lowest since records began in 2009. It has to be taken into account that these are official figures and the real number is much higher, as many Catalans living abroad don’t register at Spanish consulates for different reasons.

The 10-to-14-year-olds make up the largest age group abroad (28.143 people), followed by those between the ages of 45 and 49 (27.062), those between 40 and 44 (26,845) and the 15 to 19 age range (25.026). The EU is the main destination for Catalans abroad (109.632), followed by South America(93.452), where the effect of the post-Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) exodus is indisputable, particularly amongst the descendants of those who escaped Francoism. Those considered to be Catalans abroad are both those whose last place of residence before emigrating was Catalonia, as well as those born abroad who are descendants of Catalan emigrants.

This year is the first since records began that the number of Catalans in South America has decreased (-0.4%). Those living in the EU have also declined, but only due to the fact that the 26.759 individuals in the UK are, as of New Year’s Day 2021, no longer living in the Union, but rather fall under the ‘rest of Europe’ category, which has skyrocketed. Indeed, European countries outside the EU are now the third main destination of emigrants (62.283), followed by Central America (31,902), North America (25.766), Asia (8.693), Africa(5.229), and Oceania (3.557).

France, Argentina, Germany

If we zoom into the country level, France is still home to the largest number of Catalans abroad: 48.057. This is due to proximity, but also the scars of the Civil War. Indeed, 16.141 of them were born in France. Argentina – the second most popular location – is an even more obvious example of the emigration of the late 1930s and early 1940s. 25,403 of Argentina’s 31.542 Catalans were born in the South American country. Germany (28.140), the UK (26.759) and the US (22,880) follow in the ranking, with a much lower share of Catalans born in these countries. Mexico is the sixth most popular place for Catalans for the same reasons as Argentina and most Central and South American countries: 14.150 of the country’s 18.196 Catalans were born there. Indeed, at least 110.000 of the 125.354 Catalans living in Central and South America were born in the country they currently reside in.

The figure for those who moved in 2020, the year Covid-19 broke out, is 19.173, around 32% fewer than in 2019, which saw 28.096 people leave Catalonia. The EU (6.912), the rest of Europe (4.539), and South America (3.076) were the main destinations, with the latter experiencing the biggest decrease compared to the previous 12 months. Difficulties especially in terms of overseas travel due to the pandemic may explain this lower than usual number.

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