Projects of Green and Inclusive Rural Development in the Nordics (2021-2024)

New project 2023-2024
Strategies to address Nordic Rural labour shortage

In many countries and places across the Nordic region, shortage of labour has become a big challenge. To fill vacant jobs and recruit adequately skilled people to take the jobs available has become a regional development issue that rural and cross-border areas have in common. Substantial knowledge gaps exist in what challenges in labour shortage are in common across the Nordic countries’ various rural areas, and what strategies and solutions are in use. The project will fill this gap by providing an overview, collecting statistical data and producing visualization and dialogue around the state of the art. The project will address the following questions:

  1. What strategies and solutions to rural labour shortage exists in the Nordic Region?
  2. What regional and rural variations of labour shortage exists in the Nordic Region?
  3. Which regions and sectors are especially challenged by rural labour shortage?
  4. How can the strategies in use to address labour shortage be better targeted to rural specific problems?

This project will collect a lot of data, organize workshops and produce a report.
Contact person: Elin Slätmo (

New project 2023-2024
Smart Adaptation to Rural Realities: approaches and practices in Nordic municipalities and regions

The Nordic population has grown substantially during recent decades, however, most of the growth has been located in urban regions. The rural regions in the Nordic are not projected to become depopulated, but the growth is expected to be moderate. This implies a need for rural municipalities to develop policies based on smaller populations, to adapt in a smart way to population shrinkage. Though the issue of population shrinking in the Nordic Region is identified as an urgent matter in municipalities and regions, it is also considered politically sensitive to adapt public activities and spending to a smaller population. The strategies and activities need to be developed with attention to the opinions of the remaining population and focusing on ensuring the quality in the public service delivery. Though studies have been carried out at national level in some of the Nordic countries as well as at EU level, no Nordic level studies about the reactions, approaches, and strategies to tackle population shrinkage through smart adaptation strategies appear to have been carried out. Therefore, the aim of this project is to identify and describe strategies in use to adapt to rural shrinkage that are included in rural governance across the Nordic region, as well as to facilitate Nordic learning and knowledge sharing between municipalities and other actors working with rural governance. This project will host several national workshops in the Nordic countries and a joint Nordic workshop. It will also deliver a working paper and a policy brief.
Contact person: Elin Cedergren (

Service Provision and Access to Services – enhancing trust and security

Nordic municipal and regional authorities play a central role in delivering key public services in areas, such as, health, education, and social care. Yet, public authorities have faced several challenges, including demographic change caused by an ageing population and uneven population development, lack of access to labor force and adequate skills, long periods of austerity after the 2008 financial crisis, and the COVID-19 Pandemic. This project analyses how essential service needs for different types of societal groups and ruralities can be understood and defined, and how solutions to rural service provision challenges can be organized. At the end of the project, we will have valuable input for policy makers and planners at national, regional, local, and cross-border level on safe, secure and trusted service delivery models and partnerships across different Nordic rural and sparsely populated communities.

Contact person: Elin Slätmo (
See the report under "publications"

A Just Green Transition in rural areas: local benefits from value creation 

Rural areas can play a very important role in the green transition as far the majority of natural resources are located here. There may, however, be a real risk that the rural areas end up working merely as instruments to national and international agendas and as engines for the urban areas without any real local benefits for the rural communities and rural populations.  So, how to make green transition just for all parties? This project analyses the effects on rural communities and rural populations by exploring the local value creation opportunities and challenges, from job creation (or preservation) and economic and demographic growth to social innovation, learning, community well-being and attractiveness. And how will policy support or prevent local rural benefits and local development? This project will add Nordic value through knowledge sharing – good cases and identified actions will be spread through the Nordics.
Contact person: Hilma Salonen (
See the discussion paper under "publications"

Rural and regional impacts of remote work and multilocality

The Covid-19 pandemic is expected to accelerate the trend towards remote working that was evident, albeit to a lesser degree, before the pandemic. A substantial proportion of workers who began working remotely during the pandemic have indicated that they would like to continue to do so in the future  and several companies have announced long-term policies to support their staff to ‘work from anywhere’. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this flexibility will have knock-on effects for mobility and migration patterns, with less densely populated areas likely to be the biggest beneficiaries. What is lacking however, is concrete data to analyse the long-term implications of this trend for Nordic rural and regional development. This two-year joint TGB &TGC project addresses this knowledge gap, exploring the rural and regional development implications of increased remote work and multilocality in the Nordic countries.
Some reports are already published, check under "PUBLICATIONS"

The project seeks to:

  • Understand the potentials of increased remote working and multilocality for different types of regions and municipalities.
  • Explore how different Nordic municipalities and regions respond to and approach the development potentials of remote work.
  • Analyse the strategies policy makers and planners are using to tackle the challenges, capitalise on the opportunities, and deal with the uncertainty associated with increased remote working and multilocality post-covid 19.
  • Create opportunities for knowledge sharing that can make the most of this trend for Nordic regional and rural development.

This project will also include several joint activities with the TGA project: City planning impacts of emergent workplace location norms on a city’s attractiveness and competitiveness.  Contact person: Louise Ormstrup Vestergård (

Find projects from the previous group (2017-2020) on this page below.

Sustainable Rural Development in the Nordics (2017-2020)

Sustainable Rural Development Thematic Group Projects developed new knowledge or synthesize existing knowledge, summarise of best-practice examples, study tours for regional policymakers in rural Nordic regions to share knowledge with their counterparts in other regions, and workshops where knowledge can be shared among rural policymakers and practitioners.

Click on the titles and you will find more about each project on

Regional collaboration on service provision and social innovation

The main objective of this project is to identify and analyse good practices that serve as examples for learning and finding tools, methods and approaches to improve service provision. Implemented under the Nordic Thematic Group for Sustainable Rural Development, the project will focus on new and innovative forms of service supply.

Case study examples will shed a light on how different services are co-created through different types of inter-municipal, inter-regional and cross-border collaborations, including the involvement of non-governmental organizations / non-profit organizations. The geographical focus is on rural areas in different parts of the Nordic Region.

This project contains 6 good practice examples from across all Nordic countries.

Rural attractiveness in Norden

Looking at demographics and employment data over the past 10 years in different rural areas in the Nordic region, we can see remarkable variations in terms of in- and outmigration and local job effects. Traditionally, the perspective has been that people follow jobs. However, jobs also follow people.

During the last decades, increased prosperity, more leisure time, changes in job and housing structures, digitalization, access to outdoor and recreation, lower housing prices and the wish to participate in local community life all are potential drivers for changed migration. The attractiveness project seeks to capture the reasons behind why people choose to leave sparsely populated / remote and urban adjacent rural areas, why they move there, and why they always have stayed there.

This project contains 14 short stories about rural regions in the Nordics.

Sami youth involvement in regional development

The purpose of the analysis is to provide insight into the priorities and initiatives of Sami youth and Sami education institutions regarding economic development. The findings will be discussed in a comparative perspective, considering the differences and similarities between Sami youth perspectives and education institutions in Norway, Sweden and Finland.

The analysis will address questions: what are the perspectives and initiatives of Sami youth associations regarding regional economic development, and how do Sami education institutions consider and design education programmes to support the linkages between the Sami indigenous culture and regional and rural economic development.

The analysis will conclude with recommendations for policymakers and practitioners working with regional and rural development in Sapmi, including opportunities for cross-border collaboration.

Unlocking the potential of silver economy in the Nordic Region

Population ageing is one of the main demographic trends in the Nordic countries and it is widely considered important to plan and prepare for ageing and its possible implications. Ageing is often regarded as a challenge that will result in increased economic and societal demands and there are concerns about the possible effects of a decreasing work force and the costs of supporting and caring for a growing number of older people.

This project is focused on the concept of the silver economy. This term refers to all economic activities that are linked to older citizens. Many older people continue to make valuable economic and societal contributions beyond official retirement age through paid or unpaid work, such as by providing informal care to other older people, grandchildren or adult children. In this regard, promoting health and activity in older age is vital as it may not only improve economic productivity and competitiveness but also increase well-being and inclusion while minimizing the risk of social isolation. In addition, a growing number of older consumers also means that there will be an increased demand for new types of services and products.

Regional collaboration on service provision and social innovation

The main objective of this project is to identify and analyse good practices that serve as examples for learning and finding tools, methods, and approaches to improve service provision. Implemented under the Nordic Thematic Group for Sustainable Rural Development, the initiative will focus on new and innovative forms of service supply. 

Case study examples shed light on how different services are co-created through different types of inter-municipal and inter-regional collaborations, including the involvement of non-governmental/non-profit organizations.

In the project, the geographical focus is on small and remote rural areas in different parts of the Nordic region. Selected case studies will be in the areas of healthcare, welfare/social sector, education, and cross-cutting issues will be digitalization and social innovation.

Regional disparities and the geography of service within the Nordic countries

Territorial cohesion and balanced development are key goals within regional development policy in the Nordic countries. In order to better understand progress towards the goal of a more balanced regional development, this project analyses regional disparities in the Nordics from the perspective of accessibility to services. The point of departure in this study is to use a GIS-based approach to map, analyse and visualize the degree of disparities in this regard.

The project develops a tool that can provide aid for determining the optimal locations of different public and private services in relation to the spatial distribution of the population. There are a number of different tools and systems that can be utilized for this type of analysis and Nordregio has prior experience with similar projects. The methodological design of the study will also take into consideration existing tools such as the Pipos tool, developed by the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth, that can be used to model the supply and accessibility of services.

Rural housing dilemmas: De-population and empty houses, as well as lack of housing

In rural areas, suitable housing opportunities for present and potential residents are decisive in order to maintain and develop the regions. Given the general trend of depopulation of the rural areas, lack of housing is not expected to be a problem there. Nevertheless, there are problems with housing in Nordic rural areas.

The situation differs between types of rural areas, with the ones close to towns often functioning as living areas for people commuting to jobs in the city. The general market mechanisms tend to regulate supply and demand, but in many rural areas, the market price is below the cost of construction. This means that there is no incentive to invest in construction and finance constructions in these areas. Apparently, ordinary market mechanisms are not working here.

So, this project addresses the housing challenges in the rural areas by mapping the scope of the housing issue in the Nordic region and studies examples of how these problems are being dealt with at national and local levels.

Rural tourism in the Nordic region

Sustainable tourism has been defined as taking full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment, and host communities. It meets challenges such as capacity constraints on natural and physical capital and strong seasonal differentiations that require considerations for optimal investments.

The project looks more closely at how these challenges are met in various rural areas within the Nordic region and faces the development of a more sustainable rural tourism in the Nordic regions. In order to see how tourism stakeholders, including the local community, benefit from tourism development, it will be aimed at investigating the dynamics of local tourism innovation.

Transport support for elders and handicapped in the Nordic rural regions

This project aims to analyse transport challenges and possibilities for the less mobile part of the population in the rural areas of the Nordic region, elders and handicapped in particular.

The scoping analysis focus on the legislation and support programs in the Nordic countries regarding mobility, changes which are ongoing or planned and which administrative levels are responsible for securing this part of population equal rights to mobility as well as how this corresponds with the Nordic Co-operation "Handlingsplan för nordiskt samarbete om funktionshinder".

Rural Norden in 2050: Spatial perspectives on demographic and economic futures

There has been a long-term trend of urbanization across the Nordic countries. While some rural municipalities will continue to grow, it is likely that many will continue to decline in population and also experience rapid population aging.

The purpose of this project is to provide policymakers at the national and regional levels an idea of what the size, composition, and geographic distribution of the rural populations in the Nordic countries might look like at mid-century.

The project draws partially on population projections done by the national statistical offices of the Nordic countries to examine the size, regional concentration, age-sex distribution, shares of foreign-born persons, and other characteristics of the rural populations in the Nordic countries in the future. It also analyses structural changes in the rural economies of the Nordic countries.

Rural perspectives on spatial disparities of education and employment outcomes

The project analyses spatial disparities of youth education and unemployment from the rural perspective in the Nordic region. The spatial disparities concept of the project helps to identify gaps in established structures of education, training or work that occur among youth living in rural areas.

The main aims of the project are to improve understanding of the spatial and cultural dimension of youth unemployment and inactivity from a rural perspective including urban/rural variation between countries, differences between rural areas; explore the key policy differences between the countries along with potential links between these and outcomes for young people; and highlight examples of effective/innovative practice in the Nordic countries and autonomous regions.

Changing Ruralities: Nordregio Forum 2018

Nordregio Forum 2018 focused on rural and regional development.

What makes certain regions more attractive than others? What makes young people want to stay or return to some regions while others are suffering from out-migration of especially young women? What makes a region attractive for companies to invest in? What are the potentials for tourism in Nordic regions? These and more questions have been discussed at the Forum.

We divided into these questions and issues related to rural areas in the Nordic countries. With key-note speakers, parallel sessions, panel discussions, study visit and more, there has been created an interesting arena for policymakers, organizations and other working with these themes to meet, discuss and exchange knowledge and experiences.