Growing Regional Imbalances
Where do we find the most pronounced effects of demographic change? Why is it that youth unemployment is especially high in certain regions? In what countries or regions is the job situation so poor as to induce people to emigrate? Based on a total of 24 indicators, the Berlin Institute has analyzed and assessed the sustainability of 285 European regions. Green means good prospects, while the red indicates problems for the regions in question, and the deeper the red, the more problematic the situation is. Even a first, cursory glance at the map reveals a marked east-west disparity.
The present study assesses the sustainability of 285 European regions on the basis of 24 demographic, economic, social, and environmental indicators. All EU countries as well as Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland, all three of them non-member states, have been included in the study. The diversity of the data that went into the making of the present assessment ensures that we have come up with a differentiated picture: In addition to economic performance, the factors that count here include e.g. population age composition, employment levels for young people, women and older persons, investment in research and development, but also pollution of the atmosphere with carbon dioxide, a climate gas. The sustainability of Europe’s regions depends in important ways on all of these factors.
The study spells out the implications of demographic change, showing that individual countries are not only affected in very different ways by it but that these countries also deal quite differently with the challenges it poses. All countries are faced with problems that they need to solve. Many have good ideas. But none is in possession of a magic formula. It is that that makes Europe, with its diversity of cultures and sensibilities, a marketplace of ideas, of successes and failures, that everyone would do well to have a good look at.
The best scores were given to regions in northern Europe, which also have high fertility rates, and the field is led by Iceland, a small, exceptionally prosperous, and highly developed nation. The capital cities of Stockholm and Oslo did particularly well in this connection. Six of Switzerland’s seven regions are ranked among the Europe’s ten best. All these regions are typified by relatively stable demographic structures as well as by high aggregate value added, good education levels, and impressive employment levels — also for older persons. Ireland and the UK also rank high, as do the Benelux countries, France, Germany’s southern regions, Austria, and some regions in northern Italy and northeastern Spain.
Just about all of the regions that scored on the lower end of the scale are remote rural regions, e.g. in southern Italy or Greece, and regions in Bulgaria, Romania, and Poland that have been hard hit by radical structural change. These regions are affected by an array of negative demographic phenomena: very low fertility rates, massive outward migration of young people, and the marked aging of the remaining population that this entails — and to make things worse, the latter is as a rule not particularly well off in social terms.
If we look at the map presenting the overall ranking, we cannot fail to notice a clear-cut east-west divide. What this shows is that in eastern European countries the transition from a planned to a market economy is far from complete. But it also shows how important its is to get started with reforms as early as possible. To cite an example, the Baltic nations, the first countries of the Soviet Union to declare their independence and seek orientation in western Europe, have already caught up with the weaker regions there. The same goes for the Czech Republic and Slovenia, which, even in the context of the East Bloc, were relatively highly developed and wasted little time in getting to work on reforms when the opportunity came. Other countries, like Bulgaria and Romania, both new EU member states that were plunged into a decade of political and economic crisis when the Iron Curtain was lifted, necessarily lag behind on reforms.
In addition, many countries themselves have a marked north-south divide: In the north (Sweden, Finland, the UK) and in Germany the southern regions tend to be better off in relation to the other regions in their countries.
Very generally speaking, Europe’s successful regions are located in an oval area extending from Stockholm and Oslo though London, Paris, and the Alemannic region, including Switzerland and southern Germany, to western
Austria. Germany continues to bear the marks of the old border demarcating the East-West political systems. The boundary separates Germany’s needy east from its more prosperous west, and here in turn the south ranks
appreciably higher than the north. Despite the massive subsidies that have been pumped into Germany’s new eastern states, the latter have not yet been able close the gap on the west. While the capital regions of most countries —
the headquarters of major corporations that attract young and qualified persons — tend as a rule to be among these countries’ most dynamic and youngest regions, Rome and Berlin in particular have at best an average
ranking. The Czech Republic and Slovenia, indeed even the capital regions of Hungary and Slovakia, have better prospects for the future than eastern Germany.
Contents and excerpts
OVERALL ASSESSMENT ... 8
THE MOST IMPORTANT FINDINGS ... 18
Population Development ... 18
Children and Family ... 26
Economics and Labour ... 32
Old Age and Pensions ... 38
Migration and Integration ... 44
Education ... 49
Metropolitan Regions ... 55
Values and Identity ... 59
Climate and Energy Consumption ... 64
Chances and Potentials ... 69
FRANCE ... 116
GERMANY ... 154
THE BALKAN STATES ... 324
EAST OF THE EU ... 344
INDICATORS AND SCORES ... 354
NOTES, SOURCES, AND LINKS ... 362