Demographic change and local development: shrinkage, regeneration and social dynamics

Rural conditions Economic development

Countries across the world are affected in different ways by demographic change at the local level. For example, decline in the urban population due to suburbanisation and de-industrialisation, has resulted in a wide range of socio-economic issues (e.g. increased unemployment rate, decrease in revenue, degradation of properties). As a result of falling fertility rates, many cities and regions in OECD member countries are likely to continue to “shrink” in the coming decades, even with some increases in population due to migration (from within or from outside the country).


Demographic change is one of the key challenges today for local development together with globalisation, knowledge/technological shift, climate change and the development of the green economy, inclusiveness and poverty. Strategic solutions cannot be based on addressing one of these factors alone but must take into account the interplay of these elements within a particular local area of development (urban or rural). At the same time that there are important challenges to be addressed, there are also opportunities to be fostered such as the development of the “silver” economy of older entrepreneurs, the “white” economy for medical services for the elderly population, or the natural “green” advantage of shrinking areas. However, policy responses are still fragmented and there is no articulation of a sustainable answer to ensure and increase the quality of life in the light of these changes.

In order to succeed in addressing the challenges associated with demographic change, it cannot be left to the market alone to find a solution, effective policy interventions are needed. A multi-disciplinary approach with a long-term perspective is crucial and all actors (government, social partners, community organisations, etc.) need to share responsibilities. There is a need for new ways of thinking regarding ageing and older workers’ output to overcome some of the expected challenges and to ensure financing of services that are likely to increase, with the growth of an ageing population, but a declining resource base (OECD, 2011a).

This report presents chapters detailing cases from 20 countries divided under the following sections: community shrinkage and sustainability, regeneration strategies for communities, and the social dynamics of demographic change.

 , Antonella Noya and Tamara Weyman.

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