Although global urbanization is a growing phenomenon today, we need to remember that Europe had its urbanization peak between the 50’s – 60’s. The European Union is indeed an urbanized political body, however 28% of its entire population still lives in rural areas. Reports from Eurostat even shows that between 2010 – 2015 there was a gradual increase (1,7 percentage points) of people living in rural Europe due to the more affordable space compared to the big cities.
A more recent research conducted by Zeit Online from september 2017 shows that 70 % of Germany’s entire population lives in places with a population less than 100 000. The Zeit article also shows that 15 % of the population in Germany lives in places that have less than 5000 residents.
A similar development has also taken place in Sweden. The governmental agency of statistics in Sweden reported in 2015 that between the years of 2000 to 2010 more people did actually move from the big cities to the countryside.
However, rural areas within the EU should not be considered as homogenous when it comes to social, economic and infrastructural conditions.
From a Baltic Sea region perspective there are significant differences for the living conditions of people. While a country like Lithuania has 56,2 % of its entire population living in rural areas, Sweden has 85 % of its population living in urban areas. Conditions for the labour market in the Nordic compared to the Baltic states is also pretty different. Eurostat reports that while Sweden in 2015 was considered to have the highest employment rates in rural areas in the EU, Lithuania had a 10.5 percentage points lower than those recorded in cities.
Access to internet is crucial for everyday life as well as for the labour market, innovations and governance. But the existing digital division between the Nordic and Baltic countries is indeed a major challenge for common regional and sustainable development. While residents in Sweden and Finland were among the ones who had most access to internet on a daily basis, Lithuania were one of the countries (accompanied by Portugal and Poland) with the lowest rates in the European Union.
These numbers only provide us with a glimpse of the ongoing transition that is taking place in the rural areas of EU. Nevertheless, our lack of not properly being able to identify such transitions calls for an urgent need for cross-disciplinary dialogue and research for how to plan and design sustainable for the urbanized countryside of Europe.
Source link 1: Statistiska Central Byrån
Source link 2: Zeit