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Demographic challenges - what can we learn from each other in the Nordic countries?

Increasing urbanization, mobility, ageing population and other changes in demographic structure are issues that receive more and more attention and will have a crucial impact on the future of the Nordic regions and municipalities. Demographic changes will have a large impact on different policy areas. In combination with other factors, they will pose important challenges to the provision of welfare services. Many municipalities in the Nordic countries are already severely burdened by decreasing population, which implies an unbalanced age structure and a reduction of the tax base.

In spring 2011, the Ministry of Enterprise, Energy and Communications in Sweden brought up the idea to take a common Nordic initiative to address the demographic challenges in Nordic regions. The Nordic Council of Ministers' committee for regional policy therefore decided to develop a handbook on demographic challenges to provide Nordic regions and municipalities with facts and inspiration to undertake initiatives addressing the demographic change. Nordregio was commissioned to produce the handbook in close cooperation with national and regional stakeholders. Based on previous and ongoing studies at Nordregio on demographic development, a concept for the handbook was developed during autumn 2011. The aim was also to establish a platform for the exchange of knowledge between the Nordic countries, as well as a programme allowing Nordic regions and municipalities to apply for funding. The aim of the programme was to encourage innovative measures on handling demographic challenges in the Nordic countries and to enhance the exchange of knowledge and experience on these issues between Nordic municipalities and regions.

The Nordic demographic handbook was published in June 2012 and subsequently presented in many different contexts in different parts of the Nordic countries.

In summer 2012, the Nordic Demographic programme was also launched. Out of a number of applications from different regions in the Nordic Countries, a committee composed of national representatives from Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Faroe islands decided to accept four applications. One of the main aims of the programme is to spread knowledge from the projects, and as result it was decided to arrange a mid-term seminar in May 2013 where the project partners could share their preliminary results and experiences. On the 2nd May, 25 persons representing the projects and the recently formed Nordic working group on demography and welfare gathered in Stockholm to discuss interesting examples on how demographic challenges can be handled in regions and municipalities. Since the project has been ongoing for quite a short period of time, the results were just preliminary but the project leaders also had interesting experiences to draw upon from other initiatives in their regions. The four projects represented different parts of the Nordic countries, from East Iceland to Norrbotten in Sweden but it was clear that they have many common challenges and experiences.

Sverker LindbladSverker Lindblad, Senior Adviser, Ministry of Enterprise, Energy and Communications and Chair of the Nordic Working group on Demography and Welfare




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