Colombia: The socio-economic situation, including demographics, employment rates, and economic sectors, particularly in Barranquilla, Bucaramanga and Ibagué (2017-May 2020) [COL200220.E]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

1. National Overview

According to sources, the National Administrative Department of Statistics (Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadística, DANE) reported, after conducting the 2018 census, that the population of Colombia was 45.5 million (Vellejo Zamudio 2 July 2019, 11; EIU 15 Nov. 2018). The same sources state that the results of the 2018 census, the first since 2005, were criticized due to the discrepancy between DANE's population projection and the census, with the projection calculating a population of 50 million (Vellejo Zamudio 2 July 2019, 11; EIU 15 Nov. 2018). According to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) [1], DANE stated that the discrepancy stems from inaccuracy in the population projection and not the census (EIU 15 Nov. 2018). The 2019 Economic Survey of Colombia by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reports that Colombia had a population of 48.3 million in 2018 (OECD Oct. 2019, 8). For demographic information on Afro-Colombians, see Response to Information Request COL200219 of May 2020.

Sources, citing DANE, indicate that Colombia's unemployment rate was 12.2 percent in February 2020 (Reuters 30 Apr. 2020; CE Noticias Financieras 30 Apr. 2020), compared to 10.8 percent in March 2019 (Reuters 30 Apr. 2020). Reuters, citing DANE, states that 70 percent of the workforce is located in large cities, and that the urban unemployment rate was 11.5 percent in February 2020 (Reuters 30 Apr. 2020). The OECD, based on data collected from a number of organizations, including DANE, indicates that in 2018 the employment rate for persons between 15 and 64 years of age was 66.4 percent, the unemployment rate for persons aged 15 and over was 9.7 percent and the youth unemployment rate (for people between age 15 and 24), was 19.7 percent (OECD Oct. 2019, 8). According to a 2018 urban labour market report for 13 urban areas [2] by Colombia's Department of National Planning (Departamento Nacional de Planeación, DNP), based on data from DANE's integrated household survey (Gran encesta integrada de hogares, GEIH), the male unemployment rate was 9.2 percent in 2018, and the female unemployment rate was 12.6 percent (Colombia May 2019a, 6). The same source, citing DANE's GEIH, reports that women earned 84.5 percent of the income of their male counterparts in 2018 (Colombia May 2019a, 9).

Colombia Reports, a Medellín-based news site (Colombia Reports n.d.), citing DANE, states that the national poverty rate was estimated at 27 percent, with 7.2 percent living in extreme poverty, and the urban poverty rate was 16.2 percent in 2018 (Colombia Reports 5 May 2019). A report by Colombia's DNP on monetary and multidimensional poverty covering the period from 2010 to 2017, based on data from DANE's GEIH, states that, nationally in 2017, there were 116 women in poverty for every 100 men in the same situation, while there were 127 women in extreme poverty for every 100 men (Colombia July 2018, 65-66).

Sources indicate that the biggest employment sector is the service sector, followed by the industrial and agricultural sectors (Santander Trade Apr. 2020; LO/FTF Council Feb. 2018, 11). The Labour Market Profile 2018 for Colombia by Ulandssekretariatet LO/FTF Council (Danish Trade Union Council for International Development Cooperation, LO/FTF Council) [3], citing DANE data covering the period of November 2016 to January 2017, describes the primary employment sectors as follows:

  • Trade, restaurants and hotels, 28 percent;
  • Community, social and personal services, 19 percent;
  • Agriculture, livestock, fishing, hunting and forestry, 16 percent;
  • Manufacturing, 12 percent;
  • Real estate, business and rental activities, 8.1 percent;
  • Transport, storage and communication, 7.9 percent (LO/FTF Council Feb. 2018, 12).

Colombia Reports, citing 2019 survey data collected by DANE, indicates that 15.6 percent of Colombians were victims of a crime in 2018 and 71.3 percent of citizens did not report crimes to the authorities (Colombia Reports 18 Oct. 2019). The same source states that DANE's rates for urban areas were "considerably lower" than those reported by municipalities; for example, DANE reports that 8.6 percent of the population of Medellín were victims of crime in 2018, compared to 15 percent reported by the municipality itself (Colombia Reports 18 Oct. 2019).

2. Barranquilla (Capital of the Atlántico Department)

An article on the urban growth of Barranquilla published in the journal Sustainability [4] states that the Barranquilla Metropolitan Area (BMA) [5] comprises five municipalities, including Barranquilla, Puerto Colombia, Soledad, Malambo and Galapa, with Barranquilla as the core municipality (Aldana-Domínguez, et al. 29 June 2018, 2, 3).

Sources indicate that Barranquilla is the fourth-largest city in Colombia (Universidad del Norte n.d.; Schubert, et al., 6 Dec. 2018, 2). According to DANE's 2018 census, the total ([translation] "[a]djusted") population of Barranquilla in 2018 was 1,206,319 and there were 52 women for every 100 residents in Barranquilla (Colombia 2019, 39). The same source further reports that 5.2 percent of the population were Afro-Colombian, 0.1 percent were indigenous, and 0.1 percent were Palenqueros [6] (Colombia 2019, 39). The OECD, using the definition of a functional urban area (FUA) [7], states that Barranquilla had a population of 2,303,091 in 2018 (OECD n.d.). DANE reports that there were 346,988 dwellings in 2018, including 142,090 houses and 188,014 apartments (Colombia 2019, 40). The same source indicates that 99.6 percent of the population had access to electricity, and 99 percent had access to water (Colombia 2019, 40).

DANE indicates that Barranquilla had an unemployment rate of 7.9 percent in the period from August to October 2019 and a poverty rate of 21.1 percent in 2018, with 2.2 percent living in extreme poverty (Colombia 2019, 41). A presentation from DANE on Barranquilla covering the period from December 2019 to February 2020 states that the employment rate was 58.6 percent and the unemployment rate was 8.9 percent (Colombia 2020a, 3). Another 2020 DANE presentation states that, for the same period, the unemployment rate for youth (persons between the ages of 14 and 28), was 16.7 percent (Colombia 2020b, 73). The 2018 urban labour market report by Colombia's DNP, based on data from DANE's GEIH, reports that the male unemployment rate for Barranquilla was 5.7 percent in 2018, and the female unemployment rate was 11.8 percent (Colombia May 2019b, 1). The same source, based on data from DANE's GEIH, further indicates that women earned 76.9 percent of the income of their male counterparts in 2018 (Colombia May 2019b, 4). The report on monetary and multidimensional poverty by Colombia's DNP, based on data from DANE's GEIH, states that in Barranquilla, in 2017, there were 109 women in poverty for every 100 men in the same situation and 145 women in extreme poverty for every 100 men (Colombia July 2018, 67).

DANE describes the primary employment sectors of Barranquilla, for the period of December 2019 to February 2020, as follows:

  • Vehicle trade and repair, 23.7 percent;
  • Manufacturing industries, 12.5 percent;
  • Artistic activities, entertainment, recreation and other service activities, 12.0 percent;
  • Public administration and defense, education and health care, 10.7 percent;
  • Transportation and storage, 10.2 percent;
  • Accommodation and food services, 9.4 percent;
  • Construction, 8.8 percent (Colombia 2020a, 9).

According to an article by Ignacio Ramos Vidal, a professor of social psychology at the University of Seville in Spain, as well as at the Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana [in Colombia], many of the internally displaced populations who relocated from rural areas to cities, such as Barranquilla, where the main employment sectors are industry and services, are working in [translation] "precarious" low-skilled jobs in the service sector, since they are unable to find employment in agriculture, the main employment sector in the areas from which they came (Ramos Vidal 2018, 307).

DANE's 2019 survey on citizen safety indicates that 9.6 percent of the population (aged 15 and older) in Barranquilla were victims of a crime in 2018 (Colombia Oct. 2019, 42). El Tiempo, a national newspaper in Colombia, citing the District Administration and local authorities, states that January 2020 was the [translation] "best" month in the last five years regarding crime, with a downward trend in extortion, personal injuries, thefts and homicides (El Tiempo 4 Feb. 2020).

PROCOLOMBIA [8] states that the region's transportation system includes the Ernesto Cortissoz International Airport, as well as an "excellent road network," which connects to "all" of Colombia (Colombia n.d.a). The US Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) indicates that travel between large cities, including between Bogotá and Barranquilla, can take up to two days due to an aging road network (US 18 Mar. 2019).

3. Bucaramanga (Capital of the Santander Department)

Sources state that the Bucaramanga Metropolitan Area also includes Girón, Floridablanca and Piedecuesta (UIS n.d.; Invest in Santander n.d.a).

DANE's 2018 census reports that Bucaramanga had a total "[a]djusted" population of 581,130 in 2018, with 53 women for every 100 residents and 1.6 percent of the population consisting of Afro-Colombians (Colombia 2019, 47). The OECD indicates that the Bucaramanga FUA had a population of 1,150,993 in 2018 (OECD n.d.). DANE states that in 2018 there were 189,442 dwellings, including 73,798 houses and 107,328 apartments (Colombia 2019, 48). The same source states that 99.5 percent of the population had access to electricity, and 94.3 percent had access to water (Colombia 2019, 48).

DANE indicates that the unemployment rate was 8.9 percent during the period of August to October 2019, and the poverty rate was 14.5 percent in 2018, with 1.6 percent living in extreme poverty (Colombia 2019, 49). A DANE presentation on Bucaramanga covering the period from December 2019 to February 2020 states that the employment rate was 60 percent and the unemployment rate was 10.8 percent (Colombia 2020c, 3). Another DANE presentation, covering the same period, indicates that Bucaramanga had a youth unemployment rate of 17.3 percent (Colombia 2020b). The 2018 urban labour market report by Colombia's DNP, based on data from DANE's GEIH, reports that in Bucaramanga the male unemployment rate was 8.2 percent in 2018, and the female unemployment rate was 9.4 percent (Colombia May 2019c, 1). The same source, based on data from DANE's GEIH, further indicates that the women earned 78.3 percent of the income of their male counterparts in 2018 (Colombia May 2019c, 4). The report on monetary and multidimensional poverty by Colombia's DNP, based on data from DANE's GEIH, states that in Bucaramanga, in 2017, there were 116 women in poverty and in extreme poverty for every 100 men in the same situation (Colombia July 2018, 67).

For the period of December 2019 to February 2020, DANE describes the primary employment sectors of Bucaramanga as follows:

  • Vehicle trade and repair, 24.0 percent;
  • Manufacturing industries, 13.8 percent;
  • Public administration and defense, education and health care, 12.7 percent;
  • Artistic activities, entertainment, recreation and other service activities, 9.8 percent;
  • Accommodation and food services, 9.6 percent;
  • Professional, scientific, technical and administrative services, 8.3 percent (Colombia 2020c, 9).

The 2019 DANE survey indicates that, in Bucaramanga, 12.5 percent of the population, aged 15 or older, were victims of crimes in 2018 (Colombia Oct. 2019, 42). The Municipality of Bucaramanga reports that there was a total of 12,566 crimes in 2019 (Bucaramanga n.d.).

Invest in Santander, Santander's investment promotion agency (Nearshore Americas 10 May 2019), indicates that Bucaramanga's transportation system includes the Palonegro International Airport, as well as the Bucaramanga bus terminal, which has 49 national routes (Invest in Santdander n.d.b).

4. Ibagué (Capital of the Tolima Department)

DANE's 2018 census reports that Ibagué had a total "[a]djusted" population of 529,635 in 2018, and 52 women for every 100 residents (Colombia 2019, 67). The same source states that 0.4 percent of the population were Afro-Colombian and 0.6 percent were indigenous (Colombia 2019, 67). The OECD indicates that the Ibagué FUA has a population of 569,336 in 2018 (OECD n.d.). DANE states that in 2018 there were 199,346 dwellings, including 105,873 houses and 83,532 apartments (Colombia 2019, 68). The same source indicates that 99.3 percent of the population has access to electricity and 96.4 percent has access to water (Colombia 2019, 68).

DANE reports that the unemployment rate for the period of August to October 2019 was 14.5 percent, and the poverty rate in 2018 was 18.1 percent, with 3.0 percent living in extreme poverty (Colombia 2019, 69). A DANE presentation on Ibagué covering the period of December 2019 to February 2020 states that the employment rate was 50.1 percent and the unemployment rate was 18.8 percent (Colombia 2020d, 3). Another 2020 DANE presentation, covering the same period, indicates that the youth unemployment rate was 29.8 percent (Colombia 2020b, 73). The 2018 urban labour market report by Colombia's DNP, based on data from DANE's GEIH, states that in Ibagué the male unemployment rate was 13.0 percent in 2018, and the female unemployment rate was 15.5 percent (Colombia May 2019d, 1). The same source, based on data from DANE's GEIH, further indicates that women earned 77.0 percent of the income of their male counterparts in 2018 (Colombia May 2019d, 3-4). The report on monetary and multidimensional poverty by Colombia's DNP, based on data from DANE's GEIH, states that in Ibagué, in 2017, there were 117 women in poverty for every 100 men in the same situation and 136 women in extreme poverty for every 100 men (Colombia July 2018, 67).

DANE describes the primary economic sectors of Ibagué as follows:

  • Vehicle trade and repair, 24.6 percent;
  • Public administration and defense, education and health care, 13.8 percent;
  • Manufacturing industries, 13.5 percent;
  • Artistic activities, entertainment, recreation and other service activities, 9.5 percent;
  • Construction, 8.4 percent (Colombia 2020d, 9).

The 2019 DANE survey results indicate that 17.1 percent of the population in Ibagué, aged 15 and older, were victims of a crime in 2018 (Colombia Oct. 2019, 42). The Ibagué municipal government indicates that there was a 21 percent decrease in [translation] "high-impact" crimes in the first quarter of 2019, compared to the same period in 2018, including a 7 percent decline in homicides (Ibagué 7 May 2019). The same source reports that local authorities resolved 64 percent of cases, compared to the national average of [translation] "around" 30 percent (Ibagué 7 May 2019).

Information on the Ibagué transportation system could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

Notes

[1] The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) is the "research and analysis division of The Economist Group," the sister company of the Economist newspaper (EIU n.d.).

[2] The 13 urban areas surveyed in the 2018 Urban Labour Market Report by Colombia's Department of National Planning (Departamento Nacional de Planeación, DNP) were Barranquilla, Bogotá, Bucaramanga, Cali, Cartagena, Cúcuta, Ibagué, Manizales, Medellín, Montería, Pasto, Pereira and Villavicencio (Colombia May 2019a, iii).

[3] The Ulandssekretariatet LO/FTF Council (Danish Trade Union Council for International Development Cooperation, LO/FTF Council) supports "democratic development of the trade union movements in Africa, Middle East, Asia and Latin America" (LO/FTF Council Feb. 2018, i).

[4] Sustainability is a peer-reviewed scholarly journal on "environmental, cultural, economic and social sustainability of human beings" (MDPI n.d.).

[5] Metropolitan areas in Colombia are "associations of municipalities that are established to regulate issues spanning across jurisdictional boundaries" and have "administrative autonomy" (Aldana-Domínguez, et al. 29 June 2018, 2).

[6] Palenqueros are one of four distinct Afro-Colombian groups, who speak the Palenquero native language and live in the communities of San Basilio de Palenque (MRG n.d.).

[7] A functional urban area (FUA) comprises a city and a commuting zone that is "functionally" connected to the city (OECD Jan. 2019). A commuting zone is defined as "local administrative units for which at least 15 % of their workforce commute to the city" (OECD Jan. 2019).

[8] PROCOLOMBIA is a government entity associated with Colombia's Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism, and is responsible for "commercially promoting exportations, international tourism and foreign investment in Colombia" (Colombia n.d.b).

References

Aldana-Domínguez, Juanita, Carlos Montes and José A. González. 29 June 2018. "Understanding the Past to Envision a Sustainable Future: A Social-Ecological History of the Barranquilla Metropolitan Area (Colombia)." Sustainability. Vol. 10, No. 7. [Accessed 8 Apr. 2020]

Bucaramanga. N.d. Observatorio Digital Municipal de Bucaramanga. "Datos de los delitos en Bucaramanga 2010 a diciembre 31 de 2019." [Accessed 21 Apr. 2020]

CE Noticias Financieras. 30 April 2020. "Saving Jobs." (Factiva) [Accessed 1 May 2020]

Colombia. 2020a. Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadística (DANE). Mercado laboral: Barranquilla A.M., diciembre 2019 – febrero 2020. [Accessed 22 Apr. 2020]

Colombia. 2020b. Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadística (DANE). Mercado laboral: principales resultados, febrero 2020, diciembre 2019-febrero 2020. [Accessed 22 Apr. 2020]

Colombia. 2020c. Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadística (DANE). Mercado laboral: Bucaramanga A.M., diciembre 2019 – febrero 2020. [Accessed 22 Apr. 2020]

Colombia. 2020d. Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadística (DANE). Mercado laboral: Ibagué, diciembre 2019 – febrero 2020. [Accessed 22 Apr. 2020]

Colombia. October 2019. Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadística (DANE). Encuesta de convivencia y seguridad ciudadana (ECSC): Resultados 2018. [Accessed 21 Apr. 2020]

Colombia. May 2019a. Departamento Nacional de Planeación (DNP), Dirección de Estudios Económicos. "Mercado laboral urbano – resultados 2018: Total 13 áreas." Informes de mercado laboral urbano: Resultados 2018. [Accessed 7 May 2020]

Colombia. May 2019b. Departamento Nacional de Planeación (DNP), Dirección de Estudios Económicos. "Mercado laboral urbano – resultados 2018: Barranquilla." Informes de mercado laboral urbano: Resultados 2018. [Accessed 7 May 2020]

Colombia. May 2019c. Departamento Nacional de Planeación (DNP), Dirección de Estudios Económicos. "Mercado laboral urbano – resultados 2018: Bucaramanga." Informes de mercado laboral urbano: Resultados 2018. [Accessed 7 May 2020]

Colombia. May 2019d. Departamento Nacional de Planeación (DNP), Dirección de Estudios Económicos. "Mercado laboral urbano – resultados 2018: Ibagué." Informes de mercado laboral urbano: Resultados 2018. [Accessed 7 May 2020]

Colombia. 2019. Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadística (DANE). Información capital. [Accessed 21 Apr. 2020]

Colombia. July 2018. Departamento Nacional de Planeación (DNP), Dirección de Desarrollo Social. Pobreza monetaria y pobreza multidimensional: Análisis 2010-2017. [Accessed 7 May 2020]

Colombia. N.d.a. Ministerio de Comercio, Industria y Turismo, PROCOLOMBIA. "Investment Opportunities in Barranquilla – Atlántico." [Accessed 9 Apr. 2020]

Colombia. N.d.b. Ministerio de Comercio, Industria y Turismo, PROCOLOMBIA. "PROCOLOMBIA History." [Accessed 9 Apr. 2020]

Colombia Reports. 18 October 2019. Adriaan Alsema. "Why Colombia Doesn't Go to the Police or Trust Statistics." [Accessed 2 May 2020]

Colombia Reports. 5 May 2019. Adriaan Alsema. "Poverty and Child Mortality in Colombia on the Rise." [Accessed 1 May 2020]

Colombia Reports. N.d. "About Colombia Reports." [Accessed 6 Apr. 2020]

Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). 15 November 2018. "Census Undershoots Population Projection by Five Million." [Accessed 28 Apr. 2020]

Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). N.d. "About Us." [Accessed 2 May 2020]

El Tiempo. 4 February 2020. "Disminuyen las cifras de delitos en Barranquilla." [Accessed 22 Apr. 2020]

Ibagué. 7 May 2019. Secretaría de Gobierno. "Delitos de alto impacto en Ibagué disminuyeron un 21 %." [Accessed 22 Apr. 2020]

Invest in Santander. N.d.a. "Discover Santander." [Accessed 9 Apr. 2020]

Invest in Santander. N.d.b. "How to Travel to Bucaramanga?" [Accessed 9 Apr. 2020]

MDPI. N.d. "Sustainability – Open Access Journal." [Accessed 8 Apr. 2020]

Minority Rights Group International (MRG). N.d. "Afro-Colombians." World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples. [Accessed 23 Apr. 2020]

Nearshore Americas. 10 May 2019. Adam Critchley. "Bucaramanga Competes for Attention Among Colombia's Second-Tier Cities." [Accessed 11 May 2020]

Organisation for Economic and Co-operation and Development (OECD). October 2019. "Colombia 2019." OECD Economic Surveys. [Accessed 1 May 2020]

Organisation for Economic and Co-operation and Development (OECD). January 2019. Functional Urban Areas: Colombia. [Accessed 9 Apr. 2020]

Organisation for Economic and Co-operation and Development (OECD). N.d. "Regions and Cities. Metropolitan Areas: Population." [Accessed 9 Apr. 2020]

Ramos Vidal, Ignacio. 2018. "Desplazamiento forzado y adaptación al contexto de destino: el caso de Barranquilla." Perfiles Latinoamericanos. Vol. 26, No. 51. [Accessed 21 Apr. 2020]

Reuters. 30 April 2020. "Colombia Urban Jobless Rate Rose to 13.4 Percent in March, National 12.6 Percent." (Factiva) [Accessed 1 May 2020]

Santander Trade. April 2020. "Colombian Economic Outline." [Accessed 1 May 2020]

Schubert, Henry, et al. 6 December 2018. "Assessment of Land Cover Changes in the Hinterland of Barranquilla (Colombia) Using Landsat Imagery and Logistic Regression." Land. Vol. 7, No. 4. [Accessed 8 Apr. 2020]

Ulandssekretariatet LO/FTF Council (LO/FTF Council). February 2018. "Colombia." Labour Market Profile 2018. [Accessed 1 May 2020]

United States (US). 18 March 2019. Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC). Colombia 2019 Crime & Safety Report. [Accessed 23 Apr. 2020]

Universidad del Norte. N.d. "Barranquilla City Guide." [Accessed 8 Apr. 2020]

Universidad Industrial de Santander (UIS). N.d. "Bucaramanga." [Accessed 24 Apr. 2020]

Vellejo Zamudo, Luis E. 2 July 2019. "The Census of 2018 and Its Implications in Colombia." Apuntes del CENES. Vol. 38, No. 67. [Accessed 28 Apr. 2020]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: Alerta Tolima; Barranquilla – Alcaldía de Barranquilla; Cámara de Comercio de Barranquilla; Cámara de Comercio de Bucaramanga; Caracol Radio; Colombia – Ministerio de Defensa Nacional, Ministerio del Trabajo, Policía Nacional, Secretaría del Interior; Ecos del Combeima; El Nuevo Día; El País; Encyclopaedia Britannica; La República; Oxford Business Group; Portafolio; teleSUR; US – Central Intelligence Agency, Department of State; Vanguardia; World Bank.