Socio-economic dynamics in sparse regional structures
Abstract: The aim of the thesis is to describe and analyse socio-economic changes in northern Sweden. Focus is on the period 1985-2000. Population development, restructuring of economic activities, political and cultural changes are related to a theoretical discussion on the transformation of sparsely populated areas as an outcome of multi-dimensional and interrelated processes. Besides an introductory and concluding section, the thesis contains four papers.The first paper deals with forestry's changed role in the local economy of four municipalities located in the inland areas of upper Norrland. The changes within forestry have been driven by adaptation to global competition and rapid technical development. Even though timber production has increased in some of the municipalities, job losses have greatly reduced the importance of forestry in the local economies. Many employees have left forestry for work in other branches, unemployment or retirement However, relatively few have moved from the area. A multiplier model was employed in order to analyse the impact on the local economy.The second paper deals with population changes in the six northernmost counties. During the 1990s, most municipalities and rural areas in northern Sweden have experienced renewed depopulation. At the same time, some rural areas have shown significant population growth. Three types of rural areas with population growth have been identified. Firstly, there are rural areas within daily commuting distance from regional centres. Secondly, there is a group of rural areas, mainly a number of mountain villages close to the border with Norway, which has benefited from the tourist industry. Finally, there are a few rural areas characterised by attractive residential environments and leisure housing.The third paper is based on a classification of 500 residential areas and villages in the county of Västerbotten into seven types of housing environments. In this way, the county is broken down into a mosaic of housing environments characterised by very different prerequisites for consumption and economic development A complex and dispersed pattern of disadvantaged residential areas all over the county indicates the difficulty in treating counties and municipalities as homogeneous regions.In the fourth paper, focus is on young peoples' attitudes towards staying in or moving to small communities within a local labour market region in northern Sweden. The study is based on telephone interviews with 400 young men and women in the Umeå region. Half the interviewees lived in the university city of Umeå while the others were residents in five rural municipalities surrounding Umeå. In general, the males and females aged 19-25 had a much more positive attitude towards living in rural communities than did those aged 15-18. Nevertheless, only half of the young people already living in the rural municipalities wanted to stay there. Among the young people living in the city, slightly less than 50% showed an interest in moving to the surrounding rural areas, mainly the countryside within commuting distance from the city. The connection between higher education and out-migration of young people from rural areas is also highlighted.
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