Online archive - find the most current content at

Taking on demographic challenges

It was one of the last summer days in Stockholm; right after the summer holidays, when Nordregio along with the Nordic working group on third generation regional policy organized a workshop. The topic for the workshop was how changes in population structure affect Nordic regions and municipalities and it was evident from the large number of attendees that it was an engaging topic.

At Nordregio, there is a long tradition of research on demographic development, but the intention of the workshop was to renew the focus on the issue. There was a demand for updated demographic data from civil servants working in the field of regional development in the Nordic countries, but also a wish to take the issue further and focus on the implications of population change on different policy areas. There is an underlying belief that Nordic regions share similar situations and can therefore learn from each other, which is why Nordregio has been commissioned by the EK-R to develop a handbook on how challenges caused by population change can be handled.

The aim of the workshop was to gather people with different perspectives on the issue of demographic change to focus on one specific task for a few intensive hours. The intention was not to provide any ready-made answers from our side as researchers but to get perspectives, comments and insights from the participants to be used in our future work. As in many other workshops before, this one left me with the feeling that I had more questions when we finished than when we started. But when reflecting a couple of days later, we were able to draw some very important conclusions from the discussions that took place.

At the workshop, we discussed the driving-forces behind demographic changes. One example is the ongoing trend of people moving from rural areas to larger cities. However, as was pointed out, it is important to note that this image has its nuances. It was interesting to see that the peripheral regions in the Nordic countries also have an influx of people that must not be neglected. Another issue that was discussed was the aging population, which is addressed by the EU as well as by policymakers in the member states. At present, Finland stands out as the "oldest" country among the Nordic states.

After the workshop, I realized that the basic questions remain the same. Can demographic development be steered with public policy measures? And don't we just provide artificial respiration to areas that people will leave anyway? The symptoms of the disease are being treated, but the disease is not cured. And I wonder, is it even possible to cure the disease, i.e. preventing migration from rural and peripheral areas?

At the same time, it was obvious in the workshop that there are a lot of activities and ongoing projects on all levels dealing with these questions. There is also a strong movement for taking the implications of an aging population and the migration of young people from rural areas seriously and doing something about it. It is also notable that several positive examples of people moving to remote and rural areas were highlighted.

The project on developing a handbook was also presented at the workshop. The intention was to gather ideas from the participants on good examples from the Nordic countries on how to deal with implications of changes in the population structure. It was plain to see that many Nordic regions and municipalities, especially remote and rural ones, are similar, but it also became evident that they have different possibilities to handle challenges and that these differences cannot be neglected.

Lisa Hörnström

Senior Research Fellow


Go to Nordregio News