Demographic changes: Challenge or opportunity for Nordic societies?

Recent demographic changes in the Nordic Region are consistent with global trends in developed countries. Urbanisation has been a core feature of population increase, with the 30 largest functional urban areas absorbing over 97% of the Region’s overall growth over the past 20 years. Migration has been an important source of this growth, accounting for two thirds of the total population increase over the past 25 years. At the same time, rising old age dependency ratios are putting pressure on rural and remote regions and municipalities as younger members of the population drift towards urban and urban adjacent municipalities. Regions are also struggling with gender balance with men outnumbering women everywhere but in urban areas. These demographic changes pose a challenge to existing social structures and modes of service provision in Nordic countries. Similarly, meeting these challenges with creative approaches to governance, successful strategies to promote social cohesion and positive overall outcomes presents an opportunity for the Nordic countries to demonstrate leadership on the world stage.

Chapter 2
URBANISATION: A core feature of Nordic population growth

The population of the Nordic countries increased by 7.4% between 2005 and 2015 and has now reached 26.5 million inhabitants. Since 1995, the Nordic population has grown by about 2.6 million people. Population change at the European regional level shows that the population increase has mainly occurred in regions with major urban areas, but the map of population change in the municipalities suggests a more nuanced picture as it also shows the concentration of people in and around urban areas. The population in the 30 largest functional urban areas has grown by 21.5% during the last 25 years or in absolute terms, by more than 2.5 million people. Total population growth outside these functional urban areas has been less than 70 000. In short, over the last twenty years, more than 97% of the population growth in the Nordic Region has occurred within the 30 largest functional urban areas.

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Chapter 3
MIGRATION: An important source of population increase

The population in the Nordic Region is growing from a combination of both natural increase (more births than deaths) and positive net immigration (more immigrants than emigrants). From 1990 to 2015, the population has grown by 14% and now stands at 26.5 million. Over this period, net immigration has accounted for about two-thirds of total population increase with natural increase accounting for the other one-third.

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Chapter 4
AGE AND GENDER: Growing challenges for rural and remote areas

It is well known that rural areas tend to suffer more from demographic challenges than their urban counterparts. The Nordic Region contains many sparsely populated municipalities that are affected by these demography challenges due to their remote location. This chapter provides an overview of the status and recent trends in population change, demographic dependency, youth age dependency and old age dependency, paying particularly attention to rural municipalities. It reveals that there are some interesting subtleties behind these notions of sparsity and demographic challenge. The need to study and react to these socio-economic trends, structural transformations and demographic changes in European rural areas resulted in the development of a number of regional typologies. Typologies constructed at the regional level (NUTS3) tend however to obscure important details of the demographic redistribution; hence an analysis at the municipal level would be more pertinent. The first section of this chapter introduces a classification of Nordic municipalities, based upon access to urban areas, which is subsequently used for analysing demographic trends. Section two describes the ongoing process of demographic redistribution while section three focuses on how this affects the composition of population in different kinds of locations, in terms of both age and gender.

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