The population of Cuenca and Azuay Province has grown almost 20 percent since the 2010 census, with metropolitan Cuenca growing much faster than rural areas and smaller towns and villages.
According to the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC), Azuay Province had a population of 853,000 in early 2018 while the area comprising metropolitan Cuenca had 644,000.
According to a demographer at the University of Cuenca, there are about 20,000 foreigners currently living in Azuay Province, the vast majority of them in Cuenca. Jorge Ortiz, who is a consultant to INEC, estimates that there are 10,000 North Americans, 3,000 Colombians and 2,000 to 4,000 Venezuelans living in Cuenca, as well another 2,000 to 3,000 Europeans and citizens of other Latin American countries.
“What is significant about the foreigners is that 75 percent of them have arrived since the last census,” says Ortiz. “Cuenca has become recognized as a good place to live not only for refugees and those escaping countries with bad economies but for foreign retirees with a choice of living anywhere they want.”
INEC, which estimates that the Azuay Province population will top 880,000 residents in the 2020 census, says that growth is being fueled primarily by in-migration. “The birth rate for the province continues to drop, decreasing 2.4 percent between 1990 and 2017,” an INEC report says, adding that the birth rate nationally has dropped by 13.4 percent in the same period.
Urban planning expert Pablo Osorio says that Ecuador and Azuay Province are going through a natural process of “demographic transition” from higher to lower birth rates. “This is happening worldwide in more developed communities and its rate of progression is increasing.”
Osorio adds that the faster growth for the urban area of Cuenca also follows national and international trends. “The city attracts young people from rural areas looking for better job opportunities as well as families who left Ecuador 10 and 20 years ago and who are now returning,” he says. “In addition, you have the in-migration of North Americans and Europeans which was not predicted as well as those from Colombia and Venezuela.”