The people of Barcelona sought more comfort in their pets than in the altars, economic activity contracted by 11.6%, the hope phone answered 75% more calls for help, public transport lost half of its passengers, the presence of tourists in the streets of the city fell back to 1993 levels, crimes fell by 42.1% and the air was, finally, at least as acceptably clean as the European Union claims. That’s how it is, Barcelona City Council has just published the latest version of its great ‘best seller’, the Anuari Estadístic de la Ciutat, a photograph of the highest definition which has been printed uninterruptedly since 1902, but which in this latest edition portrays such an atypical year, 2020, that you have to go back to the civil war or the 1918 flu to open the pages of a copy so out of the norm. 2020 was and will forever be the year of the covid, with that disastrous April in which every 24 hours the remains of 60 fatalities were cremated in Barcelona of that disease, in the absence of their relatives, and another 56 were buried in the same solitude. But it is much more than that, so much so that it helps to rewrite the chronicle of what happened. See.

The yearbooks produced by the municipal statistics area are always valuable study material, for now and 100 years from now. They are extraordinary documentary sources for historians and demographers, but that of 2020 should deserve special attention from economists and political scientists and, what was pointed out at the beginning, even from theologians, because, perhaps in another era, a frightened society would have taken to seeking comfort in prayer or, worse still, by millennialism, and it was not like that. Even the number of cult centers decreases. There are already less than 500, 493 in particular, 76 less than two years ago.

Economists and political scientists, here is the main question, they should immerse themselves in the yearbook data because the set of figures collected there certify, as is known, that daily life stopped and work was reduced to the minimum and essential so that the city does not her heart would stop, but what things are, the network that still survives of the welfare state and the decisions that were taken as a matter of urgency acted like an immense airbag.

There are very clear examples of this. Of course, unemployment grew. The year ended with 93,842 people unemployed, which meant an increase of 35.9% compared to 2019. But even so, the number of unemployed in the city did not even close to that caused by the 2008 crisis, whose seismic wave lasted over time. In 2013 there were 115,154 unemployed workers in Barcelona. The measures taken by the government to contain the dreaded wave of layoffs worked. What’s more, 2020 closed with 1.1 million members of social security in the city. Barcelona has historically been in surplus of jobs. The figure exceeds its working-age population, some 750,000 people.

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The second crystalline example that crises, economic or health, should not be taken with resignation, as if they were the result of a deserved punishment and the market was a divine law dictated by our Mr. Milton Friedman, is the case of evictions, which of the 4,770 in 2019 (still replicas of the 2008 crisis) were passed in 2020 to more restrained, but tragic in spite of everything, 2,465. Almost half.

That the covid was a health crisis that had an impact on the economy is no secret. The yearbook, however, reveals the fine print. The economic muscle of the city lost 11.6%, almost the same as that of Catalonia (-11.5%) and a little more than that of the whole of Spain (-10.8%). It was businessmen and workers in commerce, transport and the hospitality industry who saw activity decrease the most, by 25%, and the construction union did not do well either, which suffered a 15% drop. The pandemic, however, accelerated other sectors. The administration, education and health closed the year with a growth of 2.9%, more than anything for all the deployment of means that was launched to face the disease and its social consequences. It was something predictable. Less well known is that the financial sector grew by 4.3%.

The history of 2020 will one day deserve to be rewritten with more patience from percentages like these. Banking on the sidelines, which, as in roulette, always wins, the ant’s job for historians, economists and political scientists could be to compare how effective the social network of the different cities of the world was based on which was their network prior to the first contagion by coronavirus. The soup kitchens, which served 479,731 meals in 2019, were able to provide up to 557,068 lunches in 2020. The food bank had to increase its reserves by 20%, from 4.8 tons to 5.8, this because the number of users of this last emergency resource grew by 38%.

The Anuari Estadístic de la Ciutat, as previously underlined, is a high-resolution photograph, millions of megapixels that allow counting how many trees there are in the city, 157,636 (almost 8,000 more than 20 years ago), how many streets, 4,037 (four more than in 2019), on rainy days (124) and, which is probably most interesting in this section of physical Barcelona, ​​because it is a direct consequence of confinement, air quality. With less vehicle traffic and hardly any cruise ships, the presence of NO2, an invisible poison in urban air, was reduced by 30%, that of PM10 particles 21% and that of PM2.5 25%.

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The physical, in any case, does not overshadow the human. The yearbook is published, above all, because it tells a little about the lives of those 1,660,314 people who, according to the last count, live in Barcelona. The statistics area already gave a first and interesting appetizer of data on this issue when on October 11 it published the official register of the city, in which the covid was, again, the protagonist. It was already noted there that some 4,305 more people died in Barcelona in 2020 than statistically foreseeable and that the number of deliveries fell below 12,000. Only immigration maintains the census of the city above 1.6 million inhabitants, but at the expense of less than half of the people of Barcelona (48.8%) having been born in Barcelona and 29% of the neighbors came to the world abroad.

The register, in fact, is one of the columns on which the statistical yearbook is based, sometimes with striking approaches that invite you to see this city with different eyes, such as that map that shows which is the second most frequent nationality by neighborhoods and which reveals that, unlike New York, in Barcelona there is not a Little Italy, but a Great Italy.

That, however, was the case before and after the pandemic. What is striking are other maps and results, the peculiarities of 2020. The people of Barcelona consumed less water (10 liters less per day, and that in a city already characterized by a low waste of this scarce good), generated less waste and recycled more, were trapped less times in the elevator (firefighters rescued 1,021 people in this predicament, 1,854 in 2019), they complained more about their neighbors (1,000 calls every day the Guardia Urbana answered for this matter), of course, with everyone locked up at home for several weeks, and, although by neighborhood, they tightened their belts.

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The expenditure of Barcelona households, which was around 35,000 euros per annum before the pandemic, fell to 30,000 euros, either due to prudence, necessity or due to the impossibility of spending more. This subject, family income, especially that broken down by neighborhood, is not yet included in this yearbook because the latest data available is from 2019. We will have to wait, for questions like this, for the ‘best seller’ next year.

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