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State of the Nordic Region 2024

State of the Nordic Region 2024 takes stock of the latest trends and developments in demography, labour market and economy in the Nordic countries, regions, municipalities, and cities. This year’s report marks the 20th edition of the State of the Nordic Region, a bi-annually published report that provides a Nordic panorama of regional development trends in the Nordic countries based on the latest statistical data, maps and analyses. Watch the video from the online launch event (19 June) to get an overview of the report highlights! The State of the Nordic Region 2024 presents a collection of maps, figures and analysis within three core areas: demography, labour market, and economy, as well as a newly updated Regional Potential Index. DEMOGRAPHY What are the latest demographic trends in the Nordic Region? What kind of impact did the pandemic have on different aspects of demographic development? The demography section compiles insights from population statistics on mortality and birth, population change and migration in the Nordic Region based on the most recent available data.   Ch 1: Population change beyond the pandemic Ch 2: Fertility decline in the Nordic Region Ch 3: The Nordic geography of diversity LABOUR MARKET What kind of labour market trends are the most prevalent in the Nordic Region at the moment? How has the labour market recovered since the pandemic? Do we have the necessary skills and compe­tences to remain competitive in the future? And how is the green transition shaping the labour market? The labour market section tackles the latest developments of the labour market from different perspectives. Ch 4: The Nordic labour market after the pandemic Ch 5: Challenges of labour shortages and skills provision Ch 6: Green transition of the labour market ECONOMY Achieving sustainable, long-term regional development requires that economic, environmental, and social aspects are…

The Common Nordic Labour Market 70 Years and Beyond

This report explores the past, present, and future of labour mobility in the Nordic Region. Historical milestones and migration trends that have shaped cross-border employment are examined, highlighting both advancements and ongoing challenges such as tax legislation and language barriers. With the demand for highly educated workers increasing amidst demographic changes, the importance of Nordic cooperation and the growing trend of remote work are also discussed. The common Nordic labour market, formalised in 1954, was an extension of Sweden’s earlier efforts in the 1940s to support its booming industry. Over the years, various Nordic countries joined European frameworks like the EEC and the European Economic Area (EEA), enhancing mobility. Despite the unique long-standing cooperation and freedom, practical barriers still hinder seamless cross-border labour movement. Could a more integrated Nordic labour market contribute to solve lack of competence and skills mismatch? Today, only 1.6 % live in another Nordic country than they were born in, and a lower share than the EU average commute to another Nordic country for work. We end the report by asking four daring and forward-looking questions, with the aim of starting a discussion about how the common Nordic labour market can be developed further and encourage readers to think more broadly and look ahead to the future. 

Policy tools for sustainable and healthy eating – Enabling a food transition in the Nordic countries

This report addresses the gap between current Nordic diets and the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations 2023, emphasising the urgency for policy interventions to drive substantial behavioural shifts towards healthier and more sustainable diets. It introduces a Nordic behaviour change framework that describes determinants influencing the individual’s dietary behaviour and the enabling role of policy instruments in incentivising behavioural changes. The report advocates for a multifaceted policy approach, including taxes, subsidies, public procurement, information campaigns, educational initiatives, nudging instruments and labeling to encourage a shift in dietary behaviour. These efforts are consolidated into five key recommendations. This report delves into the gap between prevailing Nordic diets and the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations (NNR) 2023, emphasizing the necessity of implementing policy instruments designed to guide the food environment towards fostering significant behavioural change. It highlights the responsibility of governmental agencies in steering the food environment to achieve substantial behavioural shifts necessary for embracing healthier and more sustainable dietary patterns. Scholarly emphasis on behavioural shifts informs the report’s comprehensive analysis of determinants influencing a transition towards healthier eating habits. It introduces a Nordic behaviour change framework that prioritizes enhancing the availability, affordability, accessibility, and attractiveness of healthy food options, concurrently diminishing these aspects for unhealthy choices. This framework identifies determinants across food-related, personal, and socio-environmental spheres, shedding light on the critical influence of early food experiences, demographic factors, education, financial stability, cultural norms, and social determinants on dietary behaviours. Targeted interventions aimed at augmenting capability, opportunity, and motivation at various societal levels are identified as crucial for catalysing meaningful dietary transformation. The report underscores the criticality of policy instruments that address economic variables, provide information, and leverage nudging strategies to incentivise healthier dietary selections. It advocates for a multifaceted policy approach encompassing taxes, subsidies, directives for public procurement, public awareness campaigns, educational initiatives, and labelling…

Ten-year Regional Outlook: Future Perspectives for Electric Aviation in the Nordic Region

Electric aviation has gained momentum in the Nordic Region in recent years. Given its unique geographical features and strong commitment to climate-neutral transport, the Nordic Region represents an ideal testing ground for electric aviation. In five to ten years from now, electric aviation has the potential to become reality, so it is crucial to explore which factors may affect its implementation and how regional development may be impacted. Report from the “Electric Aviation and the Effects on the Nordic Region” project presents a ten-year future scenario for electric aviation in the Nordic Region. In this report, we explore future scenarios for five selected Nordic routes and identify the key driving forces behind that transformative shift, as well as the positive and negative impacts of electric aviation. The scenarios were developed through focus group discussions conducted with key stakeholders from each of the five Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden). The main findings of the study show that electric aviation is generally perceived positively in the various Nordic countries. However, there are also certain contextual differences relating to whether electric aviation is viewed as a pathway to achieving climate targets and removing emissions, stimulating regional development and accessibility of remote areas, or as a new travel option compared to conventional flights. Even though the general attitude towards electric aviation seems to be positive, scepticism and questions regarding the social acceptance of the new technology emerged, as well as the uncertainty around who will be the investors to kick-off the new technology. Furthermore, the future scenarios suggest that a high level of support from local and national governing bodies is required in order to make electric aviation a viable air transport mode in the Nordic region. The insights of this report are intended both to inform decision-makers and to provide…

Between hand-outs and stand-outs: Opportunities for policy support for just green transitions 

This policy brief addresses the challenges and opportunities of the green transition in Nordic rural areas, emphasizing the need for more fair approaches. It underscores the significance of involving local communities in renewable energy projects. The urgency of climate change, economic shifts, and recent energy crises has highlighted the need for the green transition, with a particular focus on Nordic rural areas playing a key role in developing renewable energy. However, there’s concern that this transition might increase existing differences between urban and rural areas. Evidence suggests that people in rural regions feel they might be neglected, which could put fair green transitions and the achievement of climate goals at risk. The policy brief from the Just Green Transition in Rural Areas project emphasises the need to involve local communities in green projects to encourage a sense of ownership and fairness. It calls for early community involvement, clear communication, inclusive compensation strategies, recognition of non-monetary benefits, and using the flexibility of rural municipalities to their advantage. As Nordic rural areas face multiple changes, collaboration across different sectors is vital to ensure fairness and effectiveness in green initiatives, potentially making rural areas pioneers rather than followers in the transition. The policy brief is based on the case study report “Can local value creation induce a sense of justice during green transitions? A study of six rural areas in Denmark, Finland, and Norway.”

Championing sustainable construction using timber in the Baltic Sea Region

Timber construction can radically cut carbon emissions. The construction sector is accountable for c. 40% of global emissions, a third of which comes from the production of building materials. Replacing concrete and steel with timber offers a huge opportunity to reach the carbon neutrality goals – so what is stopping us? In this policy brief, we uncover bottlenecks in timber construction in relation to technology, public sector and institutional innovation, cultural shifts, and systemic phenomena.  Nordic and Baltic countries have a unique advantage in leading the way, given the vast forest resources available, a long legacy of the forestry industry and wood building, the in-built industrial capacity, and the well-functioning and interlinked supply chains across the Baltic Sea Region (BSR). Yet, decisive policy measures are needed to overcome technical, regulatory, and cultural obstacles. Challenging the status quo and creating a market shift demands holistic and collaborative approaches that can enable systemic change, as well as targeted measures to navigate through country-specific obstacles.  This policy brief is based on the results of two projects: 1) Systems perspectives on Green Innovation (GRINGO) a research study conducted within the Nordic Thematic Group for Green, Innovative and Resilient Regions 2021-2024 and funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers; and 2) BSRWood project funded by the Swedish Institute to enhance collaboration and knowledge transfer across the Baltic Sea Region (BSR). In addition to desk study, interviews, workshops, and study tours with many experts from different organisations and countries served to collect multiple perspectives for how to address the bottlenecks in timber construction.

Rooting for the Rural: Changing narratives and creating opportunities for Nordic rural youth

This policy brief delves into the importance of understanding and supporting the priorities of young people in Nordic rural regions to ensure these communities thrive. It highlights the importance of addressing challenges that keep youth from staying in rural areas and engaging with those unsure about their future there. Serving as a comprehensive guide for policymakers, the policy brief contextualises the report from the Nordic rural youth panel “From Fields to Futures: 40 action points for rural revitalisation”. The brief examines academic discussions, prevalent narratives, and youth engagement efforts, emphasising the Nordic Rural Youth Panel’s 40 proposed actions to revitalise rural areas. The paper investigates what young people need and want, their aspirations and ideas, and the solutions they present to policymakers that could attract them back to rural areas. It also explores ways to create and enhance opportunities for rural youth to realise their potential and contribute significantly to their communities, thereby changing the existing narratives about young people in rural areas. Lastly, the policy brief stresses the importance of considering diverse youth perspectives in policymaking to promote inclusive and sustainable rural development in alignment with the Nordic Vision.

Gen Z Agency: Mobilising young people to strengthen Nordic rural areas – What we did and how we did it

This discussion paper outlines the project Gen Z Agency: Mobilising young people to strengthen Nordic rural areas, highlighting what we did and how we did it when engaging young people to tell us what policy and decision-makers need to do to revitalise Nordic rural areas. The discussion paper emphasizes the significance of understanding the priorities of young people in Nordic rural regions to shape thriving communities. Individuals in their twenties and thirties play a crucial role in the future development of the Nordic region, facing decisions about careers and settlement. The project, “Gen Z Agency,” places young people at its core, aiming to gather their aspirations and solutions for revitalizing rural areas. The Nordic Region’s vision for 2030 focuses on sustainability, integration, and making it the best place for young people. Recognizing youth as rights-holders, the project aligns with the Nordic vision to improve well-being and enable youth to be heard. Youth involvement is crucial for sustainable and inclusive regional development, especially in rural areas facing challenges like an aging population and youth migration. The paper stresses the importance of understanding diverse experiences and perspectives among young people in addressing these challenges. The voices and engagement of young people are central for strengthening Nordic rural areas and promoting their well-being. The project seeks to uncover what is needed for young people to envision a future in rural areas, exploring solutions and enablers for them to live and work there. In pursuing social and environmental sustainability, the active involvement of young people in policy formulation is essential.

Can local value creation induce a sense of justice during green transitions? A study of six rural areas in Denmark, Finland, and Norway

Nordic rural areas risk alienation due to top-down green transition measures that often overlook their unique needs and challenges. This report suggests early local engagement, transparent communication, and regional ownership of energy projects can foster trust, ensure equitable benefits, and better integrate projects with local aspirations. The accelerating impacts of climate change, the need to adapt to changing economic and political realities, and the recent energy crisis have made the green transition something that most Nordic citizens acknowledge. However, especially rural areas and their communities are at risk of being reduced to passive instruments of national green transition measures featuring heavy land-use. These conditions make it very difficult to create a sense of justness in green transitions, leading to growing sense of alienation and resentment and putting the national climate goals in danger. From this starting point, the case studies of the research project “Just Green Transition on Rural Areas: Local Benefits from Value Creation” set out to examine what kind of benefits would generate value from green transition measures in the direct impact zone of new energy projects. The case studies took place in three Nordic countries and six locations: in Northern Ostrobothnia and Northern Central Finland of Finland, involving wind power and land use planning; in Nord-Fron and Nord-Odal in Norway, involving both wind power and strategic sustainability work; and in Skive and Bornholm of Denmark, involving a hybrid mix of renewable energy sources in the context of industrial park development.  The results highlight the importance of local involvement and trust in green energy transitions in Nordic rural areas. Neglecting local needs can cause resistance to renewable projects. Early engagement, transparent communication, and ensuring local benefits are vital. While monetary benefits attract attention, relying solely on them can create community divisions. A blend of community engagement, environmental benefits,…