Igualada is the capital of the Anoia region in the province of Barcelona in Catalonia. It has a population of 39,000 and is located 65km west of Barcelona and 20km west of the famous mountain and monastery, Montserrat. Its strategic position at a crossroads led its early development as a market place, with the first reference to a chapel and defensive walls at Igualada dating back to 1003. It remains the market centre for Anoia’s local agriculture and wine production.
A long period of limited growth was followed by a spectacular economic expansion in the 19th and 20th centuries, as Igualada’s textile industry became one of the largest in Catalonia. At the same time, a tanning boom led to it becoming Spain’s centre for leather production. Knitting and paper industries also developed here.
However, like other European areas with strong industrial traditions, Igualada has also suffered from industrial decline. Globalisation and relocation caused a progressive reduction of its leading industries, which have not been replaced by new emergent sectors—leading to structural unemployment as a result.
Though construction and the rise of the property market has contributed to a certain amount of economic growth over the last decade, the global economic recession has left Igualada with an unemployment rate of 22%—well above the province’s average of 16%. One of the top priorities of the local government is to boost diversification, innovation and economic growth, with health being one of the strategic areas for the future.
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