The vast majority of citizens (eight out of ten) believe that there are social inequalities in Spain, and 47% consider that this gap is “very notable”, a perception that is greater in women and people over 45 years. Those who most perceive that there is inequality are those who have already turned 65. At the other extreme, the youth population that expresses a lower degree of harmony with this social imaginary.

By socioeconomic levels, it stands out that those who are in a better situation are, in turn, those who most perceive the existence of many social inequalities in Spain. Specifically, 83.5% for those who enjoy high levels, and 86.3% for those who are in medium-high levels, compared to those who suffer greater economic vulnerability (76.4% for low levels).

Going further in terms of perceptions, almost two thirds of the population (63.7%) believe that inequality can be eradicated, and more than a third (38.2%) strongly supports this position. In other words, even confirming the existence of a lacerating reality in Spain, from a perceptive point of view, the bulk of the Spanish population supports the idea that inequalities are not inevitable, that is, they can be eradicated. “This seems to grant, a priori, a certain field of social legitimation to public policies aimed at fighting inequalities.”

This is indicated in the work The social perception of inequality in Spain: an approximation, by Ernesto García López, doctor in Social and Cultural Anthropology from the Autonomous University of Madrid, and who has participated in the sixth Report on inequality in Spain (2024 ) of the Alternativas Foundation, which addresses, from a territorial perspective, the analysis of the effects on inequality and poverty caused by demographic, climate and digital transitions.

The opinion most shared by the authors is that the changes produced by these three simultaneous movements (population aging, climate transition and digital transformation) will significantly affect citizens, sectors of activity and territories, with the effect “ possibly negative about inequalities”, both from a territorial and personal perspective.

The report notes that the growth of urbanization and the depopulation of many rural areas are “trends maintained over time,” largely strengthened by transitions and “difficultly reversible.” The problems associated with climate change can stimulate these trends, as well as processes of innovation and technological change.

“We are evolving towards greater territorial inequality in demographic terms, which requires specific views, with a vision that focuses on the territories rather than the municipalities. From areas with increasing demographic complexity, such as the Mediterranean coasts and archipelagos, or metropolitan areas in which spatial and age segregation run in parallel, to territories in which older people live among older people – people aged 80 or over -, in a scenario of high vulnerability, through the growing depopulation of small and medium-sized cities,” says Dolores Puga, CSIC scientist and member of the research group on aging, in her chapter “Places, populations and generations: demographic transition and inequality since a territorial perspective.”

And social inequality is centered in all territories, both in the rural world and in large cities. In fact, according to this meticulous work, inequality is greater “the larger the size of the municipality,” such as Madrid and Barcelona. As has happened in other countries, this relationship has become closer over time, the report indicates. One of the variables that most explains this relationship is the presence of an immigrant population, which is higher in large urban centers.

The Alternatives analysis also allows us to identify “the spatial concentration of inequality”, with levels significantly higher than the average in Madrid, the Mediterranean coast and the islands.

The levels of urban inequality in Europe could increase significantly in the coming decades, taking into account the recent trend, the expected demographic evolution (increase in the urban population, aging and immigration), the future transformation of the labor market in the new economy urban and the growing role of housing as a factor of social exclusion, indicates Jordi Bosch, expert in housing and urban planning policies, in the chapter “Reflections on inequality in the city of the future.”

In Spain, Bosch points out, the risk of increasing urban inequality is even greater due to the demographic projections of an increase in the urban population, aging and immigration, which are more pronounced than those of Europe as a whole, and the levels of residential exclusion , which are already particularly high in large Spanish cities.

The two main threats to equality in the city of the future are the transformation of the labor market due to technological advances and the housing problem. The first could accentuate the socioeconomic polarization of urban society as a consequence of the successive adjustments planned in the labor market (with the inherent risk of increased unemployment) and the increase in the low-paid workforce segment, explains this doctoral architect. by the Higher Technical School of Architecture of Barcelona.

Regarding housing, he affirms that, if the current tendency to put its economic dimension before its social dimension as a basic necessity continues, polarization will worsen, aggravating the dynamics of urban segregation. And also, threatening social peace.