Publications of Rural Development in the Nordics

Publications derive from the projects under the Nordic Thematic Group for Sustainable Rural Development 2017-2020. The research focuses on demographic development, rural attractiveness and youth wellbeing, service provision and silver economy. Finalised Reports and shorter Policy Briefs are available here as soon as they are published. Find ongoing projects under "Projects".

Click on the titles to find the whole publications.


Report 2020: Planning for sustainable tourism in the Nordic region

This project looks at the challenges facing the development of a more sustainable rural tourism in the Nordic regions. Our key interest is understanding the degree to which regional tourism strategies are used by the tourism actors, policy makers and local communities as tools to balance positive economic and social development in rural areas with the environmental or social burden of the tourism.

What are the main concerns and interests in the different tourism planning documents? What visions for tourism development do they express, and what role do sustainability concerns play in the plans envisaged? Although this study was designed in 2018, prior to the current Covid-19 crisis and its wide-ranging impact on tourism, it contains results which are relevant to the changes in tourism planning taking place across all parts of the Nordic region in the wake of the pandemic.


Report 2020: Rural housing challenges in the Nordic region

There are huge dissimilarities between the rural areas of the Nordic Region – both between the different countries, and autonomous areas, and internally within them. Even so, what they have in common is that most rural areas face challenges regarding empty houses and, at the same time, a lack of suitable housing for defined needs. Good, well-functioning housing provision is essential for the continued prosperity and wellbeing of individuals and families, and it is therefore also essential for rural communities.

This project focuses on understanding the character of the challenges involved in housing people in the rural areas of the Nordics. Via interviews, a picture of the predominant challenges facing the Nordic countries emerges, and the specific nature of these challenges is described in five case studies. Based on these, we have identified various mitigating measures at national and municipal level.


Policy Brief 2020: Breaking the downward spiral - Improving rural housing markets in the Nordic Region

In many rural areas, the market value of houses is low - often considerably below the cost of construction. As a consequence, it is very difficult to obtain the loan to build or buy. This 'freezes' the market and has a negative impact on rural development overall. So, how could the rural housing markets improve in the Nordic countries?

This Policy Brief explores aspects of the dynamics of the ‘frozen’ rural housing market in the Nordic Region, with a specific focus on the role of financing, the part played by municipalities and the potential benefits of a larger rental market. In many rural areas, the market value of houses is low – often considerably below the cost of construction. In consequence, it is very difficult to obtain loans to build or buy.

This ‘freezes’ the market and has a strong impact on rural development overall, in effect acting as a boost to the trend towards urbanisation and the depopulation of rural areas. In this Policy Brief, we will explore ways to counteract this dynamic.


Report 2020: Sámi Youth Perspectives, Education and the Labour Market

This report aims to provide an overview and knowledge of Sámi educational institutions and Sámi youth perspectives, which can feed into the development of regional development initiatives and policies. Therefore, the study brings together insights into the links between Sámi educational institutions and the labour market, plus the perspectives of Sámi young people on their participation in the world of work.

Our focus on youth also includes providing an overview of which topics Sámi youth organisations engage with, and how they are involved in regional development. The study also considers both similarities and differences and across Sápmi and highlights forms of cross-border cooperation which are in place today, as well as the potential for future forms.


Report 2020: Sámi nuoraid perspektiivvat, skuvlejupmi ja bargomárkanat

Dát dutkamuš viggá fállat oppalaš gova ja dieđuid sámi oahppoinstitušuvnnain ja sámenuoraid perspektiivvain, maid sáhttet ávkkástallat guvllolaš ovddidanfidnuin ja politihka hábmemis. Dutkamuš buktáge čoahkkái fuomášumiid ámi oahppoinstitušuvnnaid ja bargomárkana gaskasaš čatnosiin sihke sámenuoraid perspektiivvain sin oassálastimis bargomáilbmái. Min fokus sisttisdoallá maiddái čoahkkáigeasu das, maid fáttáiguin sámenuoraid ortniiduvvamat bidjet iežaset fuomášumi, ja mo dat oassálastet guvllolaš ovddideapmái. Dutkamuš guorahallá maiddái seammaláganvuođaid ja erohusaid miehtá Sámi ja bajida muhtin rájáid rasttildeaddji ovttasbarggu hámiid mat leat dál anus, dego maid boahtteáiggi ovttasbargovugiid potensiála.


Report 2020: Attractive rural municipalities in the Nordic countries

Why are some municipalities better than others at deploying their resources, attracting people and creating jobs? This was the key question considered in this analysis of the attractiveness of 14 rural municipalities in the Nordic Region.

The 14 areas selected are all defined as attractive in the sense that their populations and the number of people they have in work have both increased more than expected in recent years. The nature of the boost to employment in some sectors has been identified by means of shift-share analyses, in order to determine how much of this change is attributable to specifically local factors.

Interviews were then employed to probe key stakeholders about motivation, working conditions, job creation and living conditions. These interviews were with public sector representatives, business representatives and entrepreneurs, high school students and people from the education sector, as well as with young families.


Report 2019: Enabling vulnerable youth in rural areas not in education, employment or training

Placing youth in focus is a response to the Nordic Council of Minister’s cross-sectional strategy on Children and Youth 2016–2022 as well as the Nordic Co-operation Programme for Regional Development and Planning 2017–2021. It stresses the importance of promoting social sustainability in relation to regional development.

The Icelandic chair in 2019 has young people as one of three main priorities. It relates to SDG4, the fourth UN sustainable development goal, in that young people should have a key role in achieving the goal, they should be encouraged to actively participate in society and should have access to important decisions shaping the future.

This report concludes work within the Nordic Thematic Group on Sustainable Rural Regional Development as part of the Nordic Co-operation Programme on Regional Development 2017–2021. Part of the curiosity that drove this project was to understand better the situation of vulnerable and marginalized youth in rural areas of Norden, which arose from the Nordic Arctic Working Group 2013–2017 where we identified some local and regional processes with serious mismatch problems relating to youth education and validity in the local and regional labor market.


Report 2019: The Nordic population 2040 – analysis of past and future demographic trends

The purpose of this project is to provide policymakers at the national, regional, and municipal levels an idea of what the size, composition, and geographic distribution of the rural populations in the Nordic countries might look like in 2040. It is being done by compiling the population projections from the national statistical offices of the Nordic countries to examine the size, regional concentration, age distribution, and other characteristics of the rural populations in the Nordic countries in the future.

The future size of both the urban and rural populations are examined to provide context for the expected population trends in rural areas. A separate policy brief is available which summarizes the key findings.


Executive summary 2019: Nordic population in 2040

The findings show that the rural areas in the Nordic region face several demographic challenges, but at the same time, the rural future does not seem as grim as often predicted. The population and the working-age population will continue to grow in the Nordic Region, but the fastest growth will occur in the old-age dependency ratio challenging the Nordic welfare model with a growing group of pensioners compared to the working-age population. If the expected future differs from what is desired, policy interventions can be designed and implemented to attempt to achieve the desired population outcome.

This research examines the future size and age composition of the populations in the Nordic region at the national, regional, and municipal levels. The report is divided into three sections: projections of total urban and rural populations, projections of the age structure of the population, and projections of the working-age populations. To allow comparison across the Nordic regions, a typology of urban and rural regions is used with five different types of regions.


Policy brief 2018: Young people not thriving in rural areas

Despite relatively high standards of living, several indicators show that large groups of young people in the Nordic countries are not thriving. In addition, regional variations in the situation of young people across the Nordic countries are striking.

Some attempts have been made to map the unhappiness among young people in the Nordic region. But so far, none have focused on regional variations within national boundaries or have taken the comparative Nordic perspective you will find in this policy brief.

In the project, the focus is on youth in rural areas of the Nordic region who are marginalized in terms of labor market participation, training and education. The findings suggest that the living conditions that mainly influence displacement among young people are poor physical health, poor mental health, lack of income opportunities, unemployment, and limited social contact.