The vast majority of citizens (eight out of ten) believe that there are social inequalities in Spain and 47% consider this gap to be “very noticeable”, a perception that is greater among women and people over 45 years. Those who most perceive that there is inequality are those who have already reached 65. At the other extreme, the youth population, which shows a lesser degree of attunement with this social imaginary. In terms of socio-economic 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 levels lows).

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 support this position. In other words, even acknowledging the existence of a painful reality in Spain, from a perceptive point of view, the bulk of the Spanish population subscribes to the idea that inequalities are not inevitable, that is to say, they can eradicate “This seems to grant, a priori, a certain field of social legitimacy to public policies aimed at fighting inequalities”.

This is indicated by the work The social perception of inequality in Spain: an approach, by Ernesto García López, PhD 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 Alternative Foundation, which approaches, from a territorial perspective, the analysis of the effects on inequality and poverty caused by the 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 “possibly negative effects on inequalities”, both from a territorial and personal perspective.

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

“We are evolving towards a more important territorial inequality in terms of demographics, which requires specific views, with a vision that focuses on territories rather than municipalities. From areas with increasing demographic complexity, such as the Mediterranean coasts and archipelagos, to metropolitan areas where spatial and age segregation run parallel, to territories where grandparents live among grandparents, in a scenario of high vulnerability , passing through the growing depopulation of small and medium-sized cities”, points out Dolores Puga, CSIC scientist and member of the research group on Aging, in her chapter Places, populations and generations: demographic transition and inequality from a territorial perspective.

And the fact is that social inequality is concentrated in all territories, both in the rural world and in the big cities. In fact, according to this meticulous work, inequality is greater “the larger the size of the municipality”. 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 analysis by Alternativas also allows us to identify “the spatial concentration of inequality”, with significantly higher than average levels 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 urban economy and the growing role of housing as a factor of social exclusion, states Jordi Bosch, expert in housing policies and urban planning, in the chapter Reflections on inequality in the city of the future.

In Spain, Bosch points out, the risk of an increase in 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 that 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 socio-economic polarization of urban society as a result of the successive adjustments foreseen in the labor market (with the inherent risk of increased unemployment) and the increase in the labor force segment with layoffs remunerations, explains this architect doctor from the Escola Técnica Superior d’Arquitectura de Barcelona.

With regard to housing, he affirms that, if the current tendency to put the economic dimension ahead of the social dimension as a basic necessity continues, polarization will worsen and the dynamics of urban segregation will worsen. And, it also threatens social peace.