In its most recent population estimates, the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INEC) reports that Cuenca’s population has grown by 187,000, or about 28 percent, since the 2010 census. The city’s metropolitan population at the end of June stands at 718,000, the institute says, making it the fastest growing city among the country’s top 10 most populous cities. In 2010, the metro population was 531,000.
Because there was no official census in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, INEC says its estimate is subject to a 1.3 percent error range.
Major factors in Cuenca’s growth, according to INEC, is the relocation of thousands of rural families to the city, a net gain of births over deaths and the increase in foreign residents. An estimated 32,000 foreigners are living in Cuenca, an increase of 21,000 over 2010.
INEC says that 18,000 foreigners have legal status while another 14,000 have refugee or migrant status, the majority of which are from Venezuela. The agency says that 13,000 foreigners with legal status are from the U.S., Canada and European countries, with 5,000 from other Latin American countries, including Venezuela, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil and Cuba.
According to the INEC report, Cuenca has the largest community of North American and European residents in Ecuador.
Cuenca is Ecuador’s third largest city after Quito and Guayaquil, both of which grew at an annual rate of one percent from 2010 to 2020, INEC says. In 2019, Quito overtook Guayaquil to become country’s largest city with a metro population of 3,104,700 vs. 2,993,917 for Guayaquil.
INEC estimates Cuenca’s population will grow to 1.3 million by 2050.
Ecuador’s largest cities, behind Cuenca, are Santo Domingo, 438,000, Ambato, 365,000, Manta, 326,000, Machala, 309,000 and Portoviejo, 307,500.