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State of the Nordic Region 2022

Introducing the 18th edition of State of the Nordic Region.   State of the Nordic Region 2022 has its point of departure in the Covid-19 pandemic and examines how it has affected demography, labour market and economy in the Nordic countries, regions and municipalities. State of the Nordic Region is published every two years and provides a comprehensive account of regional development trends in the Nordic countries based on the latest statistical data. Read the digital report State of the Nordic Region 2022 Download PDF version here Watch recordings from launch events here The State of the Nordic Region 2022 presents a collection of maps, figures and analysis within three core areas: demography, labour market, and economy. DEMOGRAPHY An evaluation of excess deaths reveals that Covid-19 greatly affected mortality in much of the Nordic Region in 2020, with Sweden showing the highest rates. However, compared to the rest of Europe, life expectancy still increased in most of the Nordic Region during 2020 (excluding Sweden). The Nordic Region also stands out in a European context with increasing numbers of births and natural population growth even during the pandemic; however, such growth was small, and immigration continues to be the main source of population increase.    Mortality and health Marriage, divorce and birth trends Migration LABOUR MARKET The pandemic has undoubtedly altered the Nordic labour market. Throughout Europe, unemployment rates increased during this season, though these effects were less pronounced in the Nordic Region. Leaders in the Nordic countries did not make a uniform response to the pandemic, leading to general discordance and complications for labour market mobility in cross-border regions. While distancing restrictions encouraged knowledge-based employees to work from home, workers such as those in service-sector jobs were most affected by temporary or permanent layoffs. Labour market impacts Labour market mobility between…

Nordregio Strategy 2021-2024

The Nordregio Strategy 2021-2024 outlines our main mission and core research focus areas, which have been carefully aligned to address the key objectives and needs of policymakers and practitioners outlined within Nordic cooperation steering documents. In recent years, there has been a convergence of several global megatrends which are having a major impact on all aspects of the Nordic economy, society and environment. Climate change, migration, rapid demographic developments, digitalization and automation, increasing urban-rural divides, and growing socio-economic inequalities are some of the main threats facing the Nordic Region. Nordregio is focused on identifying practical Nordic policy solutions to help overcome these challenges and promote socio-economic growth and environmental sustainability across the Nordic Region. The Nordregio Strategy 2021-2024 has been written as a collaborative effort by our staff members in close cooperation with Nordregio’s Board of Directors, which represents the Nordic countries, Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland. The overarching goals that guide Nordregio’s research are outlined in the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Action Plan for Vision 2030, which is approved by the Ministers for Nordic Co-operation. The Action Plan defines the work to achieve the objectives of the Vision through a series of initiatives linked to the Vision’s three strategic priorities: a green Nordic Region, a competitive Nordic Region, and a socially sustainable Nordic Region. During the 2021-2024 period, Nordregio is committed to delivering high quality scientific, evidence-based research designed to provide policymakers and practitioners with sustainable policies to help overcome the main challenges faced by Nordic regions and municipalities. Our research will contribute substantially towards Nordic cooperation and synergies, while also showcasing Nordic policies, experience and competences internationally. The Board approved the Nordregio Strategy on the 15th of April 2021.

Closed borders and divided communities: status report and lessons from Covid-19 in cross-border areas

The situation that has unfolded due to the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the fragility of Nordic co-operation. In this status report, we look at the situation in border communities following the closing of the border, and what this may tell us about the state of Nordic co-operation – Vision 2030 for which includes integration. This study employs an institutional perspective for studying Nordic co-operation, in order to help shed some light on changing intra-Nordic dynamics. It analyses cross-border co-operation and its role within Nordic co-operation, as well as considering it more generally as a component of multilevel governance structures. In their role as para-diplomatic organisations, cross-border committees are key to ensuring ongoing dialogue across municipalities on either side of the border, as well as facilitating the objectives of further regional and local integration between states across the Nordic Region and in the European Union (EU). The ability of border areas to exist side-by-side in an integrated, seamless way corresponds to the Nordic vision of being the most integrated region in the world. However, it is clear from this study that the role of Nordic co-operation is at a crossroads: which road it will take depends upon Nordic states’ willingness to use this platform strategically – either as a ‘must have’, or merely as a ‘nice to have’. The way border communities and cross-border collaboration is treated in a post-pandemic context will shed some light on the nature of resilience in Nordic co-operation. This report was carried out by the Nordic thematic group for innovative and resilient regions 2017-2020 and was commissioned by the cross-border organisations Bothnian Arc and the Svinesund Committee.

Regional tourism satellite accounts for the Nordic countries

Tourism has played a growing role in the last two decades in the economic development of many Nordic countries until the Covid-19 pandemic hit and the tourism sector suffered from the effects of reduced travel desire and restrictions. After relief, tourist influx will resurrect and again affect local economies around the Nordic region. Tourism has economic effects. When people travel, they pay for goods and / or services such as accommodation, food, souvenirs and activities. They may be shopping in preparation for their trip or as part of their return trip. Before, during and after the trip, their expenses are directly related to the tourism activity which generates profits, rent, tax revenue, investment and employment. Tourism also has indirect economic effects, for example on hotels, restaurants and other service providers who shop from other companies to meet demand from tourists or by employees in the tourism industry using their income to pay rent, insurance or merchandise. These trickle-down effects seep down and support the economic development of regions where tourism develops and flourishes. Exact quantification of the contributions and costs associated with tourism is challenging for many different reasons. The Nordic countries have individually (except the Faroe Islands and Greenland) prepared satellite accounts to get an overview of the economic effects of tourism, but to varying degrees worked with regional satellite accounts which can provide insight into the difference in the importance of tourism’s economic contribution to regional economies. That is what this report is about. We have prepared a report whose purpose is to introduce the potential of Regional Tourism satellite accounts and describe their function and weaknesses in estimating the effects of tourism on regional economies. We also assess whether there are preconditions for developing a joint Nordic tourism account by virtue of the recognized satellite methods. Part…

The Kvarken ferry link and its importance in cross-border cooperation and integration

This report shows that a reliable transport link has been central to maintaining and developing cross-border relations in the Kvarken region. Sea traffic has been the lifeline enabling cross-border interactions and exchanges throughout the centuries, and cross-border cooperation has remained largely dependent on the ferry connection until this day. Over the decades, the depth and breadth of cooperation between the Finnish and Swedish sides of Kvarken have followed changes in the ferry connection. From the 1970s onwards, passenger traffic over the Kvarken Strait increased significantly, and cross-border cooperation became more established and varied. However, the abolishment of tax-free sales on the Kvarken ferry in 1999 was, in many ways, a turning point that led to a significant decline in traffic and had a severe, negative effect on cross-border relations. The first decade of the 21st century has been described as a low point in cross-border cooperation across Kvarken, because the unstable and limited ferry connection between Vaasa and Umeå made it difficult to maintain and develop the economic, social, and cultural ties that had been established during previous decades. Following this period of decline, joint actions were taken by actors on the Finnish and Swedish sides of the Kvarken region to reinstate a new, stable ferry connection in 2012, highlighting the importance of this traffic link to both parties. The arguments for reinstating the ferry link focused not only on improving connectivity, but on providing a new basis for re-strengthening cross-border relations and developing stronger synergies across the region, which were considered to depend on a reliable traffic link allowing frequent travel. The reinstated ferry connection has had numerous direct and indirect effects on both sides of the Kvarken Strait, such as cooperation within research, education, healthcare, and tourism, as well as new forms of cooperation between businesses, all of which…

Rural perspectives on digital innovation: Experiences from small enterprises in the Nordic countries and Latvia

The Nordic countries are at the forefront of digitalisation in Europe. The Baltic States show a more mixed performance, but still score around or above average on the European  commission’s annual measure of digital progress, the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI). Despite this positive development overall, disparities remain with respect to digital development within countries; with rural and sparsely populated areas often lagging behind on the availability of digital infrastructure and the adoption of digital technologies. As such, this project sought to provide a rural perspective on the second goal: Strengthening the competitiveness of our enterprises through digitalisation. Specifically, it aimed to demonstrate how smart, sustainable and inclusive approaches to digitalisation can be used as a tool to increase the competitiveness and attractiveness of rural areas by exploring the challenges and opportunities for small enterprises in rural and sparsely populated areas. The baseline study explored the nature of digital transformation in rural areas and reflected on opportunities and challenges for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in rural areas in each of the Nordic countries and in Latvia. The study was developed through desk-based research conducted by Nordregio and a report prepared by Vidzeme Planning Region which detailed the Latvian context. It provided an overall context for the digitalisation of SMEs in rural areas including sector-specific information on the bioeconomy, manufacturing and tourism sectors. The project was funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers for Digitalisation (MR-Digital), the Nordic Thematic Group for Innovative and Resilient Regions 2017- 2020 and the North Atlantic Cooperation (NORA) and included a baseline study, local workshops and a webinar series. Its primary focus was the Nordic countries and Latvia; however, data is also provided for Estonia and Lithuania where possible. You can learn about project results in digital divide, tourism, manufacturing and bioeconomy through these…

Compact cities trigger high use of second homes in the Nordic Region

The phenomenon of spending time in a second home—a sommerhus, sumarhús, mökki, hytta or fritidshus—is an expression of the high quality of life in the Nordic countries. Estimations suggest that around half of the Nordic population have access to a second home via ownership, family or friends, and these ‘rural’ second homes are increasingly used all year round. The dominant understanding of the Nordic region is ongoing urbanisation, where people move from rural areas to urban centres. The analyses in this study nuance this understanding as there is also mobility from urban permanent homes to rural second homes ongoing throughout the year. This policy brief presents possibilities for how spatial planning can include second home users and seasonal tourists more directly as a factor for local development, in statistics and through proactive spatial planning. In the project “Urban-rural flows of seasonal tourists – local planning challenges and strategies”, five Nordic municipalities with some of the highest amounts of second homes were chosen for in-depth analysis: Odsherred, Denmark; Pargas, Finland; Grímsnes og Grafsningshreppur, Iceland; Nore og Uvdal, Norway; and Härjedalen, Sweden. This policy brief summarises the project Urban–rural flows from seasonal tourism and second homes: Planning challenges and strategies in the Nordics funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Nordic Thematic Group on Sustainable Cities and Urban Development. A report has previously been published.

Urban–rural flows from seasonal tourism and second homes: Planning challenges and strategies in the Nordics

Estimations for the Nordic population is that half of the 27 million inhabitants have access to a holiday home, via ownership, family or friends. People use second homes during the summer or winter season and increasingly at weekends; therefore, our analyses find that a continuous counter-urbanisation process exists in the Nordic Region. We conclude that second homes and seasonal tourists are primarily considered a positive asset for job creation, planning of cultural activities and provision of services. At the same time, the central challenges are adapting the welfare system and services to these large flows of voluntary temporary inhabitants. This motivates us to recommend policymakers and decision-makers in the Nordic Region to discuss whether municipal income taxes should be shared between municipalities, based on the locations of the permanent home and the second home. The main rationale behind this recommendation is that the infrastructure and welfare system could then be better adapted to the actual number of people who spend time in each municipality and make use of the local welfare system. I hope the study will help to bridge the perceived divide between urban and rural areas, says Elin Slätmo. Errata to the map Second Homes in 2017 (p.13 in the report): The statement “In total, there are 67 secondary homes per 1000 inhabitants in the Nordic Countries.” Should be “ In total, there are 65 secondary homes per 1000 inhabitants in the Nordic Countries.”

Small-scale Tourism in Rural Areas

Rural tourism has often been considered to be a remedy for rural decline, and as a tool for creating employment and economic growth. In this Working Paper researchers’ assess challenges and potentials of rural tourism in the Nordic countries. Rural tourism is a complicated undertaking, especially in peripheral parts of the Nordic countries. In these areas, rural decline, including depopulation and competition for labour, are major challenges that must be met. A further problem is limited attention to rural tourism research. While there is growing willingness among public stakeholders to support regional and local tourism initiatives, there is insufficient research upon which to base initiatives. This creates a situation where many funding decisions appear to be random and not based on knowledge or strategic planning. Against this background, rural tourism appears to be at a crossroads. On the one hand, promising development and positive demand circumstances open new opportunities for further development. On the other hand, a lack of strategic planning as well as short-sighted funding opportunities and general rural decline appear to jeopardize future development. Greater production and integration of knowledge into rural tourism seems to be a good step towards realizing the potential of rural tourism for sustaining rural communities. The project on small scale tourism in the Nordic countries was realised through the Nordic Working Group on Rural Development Policy between 2009-2012. The aim of the project was to examine current research in the field, identify national trends, and assess the challenges and potential for small-scale businesses in rural areas of the Nordic states. This work generated five contributions written by researchers from Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, and an interactive workshop with researchers, policymakers, and tourism businesses from the Nordic Countries. Dieter Müller from the Department of Geography and Economic History at Umeå University contributed with…

Knowledge dynamics in moving media in Skåne

Cross-sectoral innovations in game development and film tourism. This report is a result of the project Regional Trajectories to the Knowledge Economy: A Dynamic Model (EURODITE). The main objective of the EURODITE project was to investigate knowledge dynamics; that is, how knowledge is generated, developed and transferred within and among firms or organisations, and their regional contexts. Empirical research on knowledge dynamics has been based on the building blocks of region, sector, and both territorial and firm-level knowledge. Territorial knowledge dynamics concern knowledge exchange, networks and interactions among actors across territories, both internal and extraregional. Firm-level knowledge dynamics contributes a deeper understanding of knowledge dynamics by studying the interactions within a firm or organisation and between firms or organisations that result in an innovation; for instance, a new or improved product. This report includes the description and analysis of two sets of territorial knowledge dynamics with accompanying firm-level knowledge dynamics in the moving media sector in the Skåne region of Sweden. The first case study looks at knowledge dynamics within computer game development and a micro-level study of the development of the serious game ‘Agent O’. The second case study elaborates on the knowledge dynamics related to film production and tourism with a micro-level study of the marketing collaboration ‘The Film Track’. In addition, these case studies have been placed in a wider European perspective by comparing them with the other case studies performed within the project. It is clear from the project’s case studies that knowledge dynamics are multiscalar and include important interactions at great distances. We conclude that cross-sectoral knowledge interactions are seed-beds for innovation and drive product development. Finally, knowledge interactions include many types of actors conducting a variety of knowledge interactions. In any region, there is a vast amount of intertwined evolution of knowledge dynamics. A…