1. Introduction and project methodology

Whilst there has been considerable attention in recent years on the national disparities associated with globalisation and existing megatrends, far less has been devoted to its impacts at the subnational level, despite evidence of their contribution to rising “geographies of discontent” (OECD, 2022[1]; Dijkstra, Poelman and Rodríguez-Pose, 2020[2]). Even before the pandemic and Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, the pace of expansion in globalisation was beginning to slow, with changes in the configuration of global value chains being increasingly influenced by growing societal and geographical pressures for more inclusiveness and responsible and green supply chains. Supply chain bottlenecks and the increased political spotlight on essential and strategic industries (including energy security) that have followed more recently have further reinforced some of these dynamics and indeed the importance of addressing information gaps. This is all the more important because many of the factors influencing the shape of globalisation are influenced by characteristics at the regional level (e.g. geographical advantages, transport and information technology [IT] infrastructure, and local workforce skills).

National and subnational governments are increasingly tackling the challenges presented by globalisation and looking to capitalise on their assets and opportunities by looking through the prism of inclusive and sustainable development. Viewed under this lens, local quality of life conditions are taking great precedence in regional policy and planning strategies, with the recognition that economic development is inextricably linked with the well-being of communities and the environment.

To assist regions to achieve this agenda, the OECD is undertaking work on Rethinking Regional Attractiveness in the New Global Environment, which has been a priority activity in the Regional Development Policy Committee (RDPC) programme of work since 2021-22.

As part of this work, the OECD has developed a diagnostic tool for measuring and assessing the drivers of regional attractiveness, and to support policy makers to identify available assets and potential challenges to strengthen the attractiveness of their places to key international target groups.

The tool has been developed and refined as part of a case study report, “The internationalisation and attractiveness of French regions” (OCDE, 2022[3]), which was conducted by the OECD Secretariat following a request from France, and with the support of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Structural Reform Support (DG REFORM), undertaken in close partnership with the French National Agency for Territorial Cohesion (ANCT), the Association of Regions and the French pilot regions (Grand Est, La Réunion, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur). A working paper measuring and outlining the OECD’s conceptual framework for measuring the attractiveness of regions (OECD, 2022[4]) was published in September 2022.

The current activity is undertaken with the support of the European Commission (Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy, DG REGIO) and draws on lessons learned from the development of 15 regional case studies from 5 EU countries (Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Sweden), as well as additional work with regions in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, France and Morocco and a series of experience-sharing webinars and one-on-one dialogues on rethinking regional attractiveness, held over the past 18 months.

It aims to help regional and national policy makers to better understand the position of regions in an evolving global context, including emerging challenges and opportunities, and identify the policy levers at their disposal to enhance the attractiveness of regions to the key international target groups of investors, talent and visitors. In doing so, it seeks to support regions’ transition towards new regional development policies that promote inclusive, sustainable and resilient development, while enhancing regional attractiveness.

Not all regions are made equal. Some have assets or density that have proved magnetic to investment, talent and visitor flows for decades (e.g. large metropolitan areas, endowments in terms of natural resources, cultural capital, manufacturing capacity, proximity or accessibility to international markets). Yet spatial inequalities have made it more challenging to achieve social cohesion, political stability and economic growth in places that have been “left behind” (Iammarino, Rodríguez-Pose and Storper, 2019[5]). Indeed, over the past 2 decades, the gap between gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in non-metropolitan versus metropolitan regions – of around 68% – remains unchanged (OECD, forthcoming[6]). The case of regions which are caught in a development trap – that is they face major structural challenges in retrieving past dynamism or improving the prosperity of their residents – is another illustration of the difficulties encountered by certain territories in adapting their economic specialisation to international competition (Diemer et al., 2022[7]). At the same time, regional embeddedness in globalisation has rendered essential the need to identify levers to attract flows of people and investment to achieve resilient territorial development and improve local well-being for people and the planet. The idea of attractiveness as a development strategy has long been studied at the national level, typically looking at foreign direct investment (FDI), “brain drain” or exports, but an all-encompassing, subnational approach and, in particular, a measurement tool that blends economic and non-pecuniary, subjective and objective drivers has not been developed for policy use (Musolino and Volget, 2020[8]).

Supply chain bottlenecks have led to a profound rethink of the way places and firms interact with globalisation, with many considering how value chain macro-regionalisation, the increased use of digital analytics and, in some cases, nearshoring – or the offshoring of economic activity to neighbouring countries – can enhance resilience in the long term (Mckinsey, 2021[9]).

This reflection is not just about dealing with challenges presented by an evolving global environment and existing megatrends. It is also about capitalising on emerging opportunities and a tool to measure attractiveness can provide regions with a competitive edge to address both.

To capitalise on that latent economic potential, the provision of an evidence-based diagnostic tool, or regional attractiveness “compass”, can help support regions, including those who may feel they have not benefitted from globalisation. The tool can help to identify the strengths, gaps and opportunities at their disposal to attract foreign investment, talent and visitors, which, together, can provide greater resilience in the face of future global economic and environmental shocks. The aim of this work is not to rank regions but rather to provide a lens through which regions can view their performance and comparative advantages relative to other regions at the national and supranational levels, across a range of dimensions. The proposed indicators are as much a means of identifying priorities for action as they are of understanding the trade-offs to be addressed. These compasses also make it possible to monitor, modify if necessary and evaluate regional attractiveness policies.

To understand the international characteristics of regions, the OECD has adopted an innovative and comprehensive approach. This approach focuses on: i) understanding the international characteristics of regions; ii) identifying existing and novel drivers of regional attractiveness; and iii) providing specific and tailored recommendations to enhance regional attractiveness for participating regions, based on an in-depth analysis of key dimensions (reflecting both international connections and attractiveness).

The OECD approach to assessing regional attractiveness considers global engagement beyond international connections and economic factors alone. At the heart of the methodology (OECD, 2022[4]) sits a regional database of more than 50 indicators to understand the position of regions in the world, based on 4 families of international connections (business, knowledge, human and infrastructure). These indicators inform the development of regional attractiveness compasses, covering 14 dimensions across 6 domains of attractiveness (economic attraction, connectedness, visitor appeal, natural environment, resident well-being, land use and housing) (a full list of indicators by category is available in Annex A).

The OECD Secretariat worked closely with pilot regions and national governments throughout the course of what has been an interactive process to:

  • Complete short fact-finding questionnaires to identify key regional actors, their attractiveness priorities and relevant regional, national and European policies affecting regional attractiveness, and share experiences and policy responses relating to enhancing regional attractiveness – including key challenges and opportunities.

  • Identify complementary statistical information to support the analysis.

  • Undertake short fact-finding missions to each of the participating regions to explore attractiveness priorities and strategies in greater depth, including through dynamic round-table discussions with key stakeholders from different policy areas.

  • Develop short “flyer” case studies for each of the participating regions, providing: i) a snapshot of the region in the world; ii) an internationalisation profile and attractiveness compass/diagnostic tool; iii) an analysis of relevant policy initiatives; iv) an analysis of multi-level governance and co-ordination mechanisms; and v) selected policy considerations.

  • Develop a community of practice to share experiences and good practices in a series of webinars and one-on-one dialogues on rethinking regional attractiveness. Fora also informed the development of case studies and the synthesis report.

The synthesis report consists of three parts:

  1. 1. Regions in the world sets the scene with an exploration of internationalisation in the new global environment and outlines the need to adopt a regional lens (Chapter 2).

  2. 2. Rethinking regional attractiveness introduces and applies the OECD’s novel measurement framework for assessing regional attractiveness (Chapter 3).

  3. 3. Enhancing the attractiveness of regions expands upon the need to rethink regional attractiveness for each of the specific target groups of investors, talent and visitors, providing roadmaps and an examination of effective multi-level governance and co-ordination mechanisms to enhance regional attractiveness (Chapters 4-7).


[7] Diemer, A. et al. (2022), “The regional development trap in Europe”, Journal of Economic Geography, Vol. 98/5, pp. 487-509, https://doi.org/10.1080/00130095.2022.2080655.

[2] Dijkstra, L., H. Poelman and A. Rodríguez-Pose (2020), “The geography of EU discontent”, Regional Studies, Vol. 54/6, pp. 737-753, https://doi.org/10.1080/00130095.2022.2080655.

[5] Iammarino, S., A. Rodríguez-Pose and M. Storper (2019), “Regional inequality in Europe: Evidence, theory and policy implications”, Journal of Economic Geography, Vol. 98/5, pp. 487-509, https://doi.org/10.1093/jeg/lby021.

[9] Mckinsey (2021), “How COVID-19 is reshaping supply chains”, https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/operations/our-insights/how-covid-19-is-reshaping-supply-chains.

[8] Musolino, D. and S. Volget (2020), “Towards a multidimensional approach to the study of territorial attactiveness”, Hal Open Science, https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-02501582/document.

[3] OCDE (2022), L’internationalisation et l’attractivité des régions françaises, Éditions OCDE, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/6f04564a-fr.

[1] OECD (2022), “Making the most of public investment to address regional inequalities, megatrends and future shocks”, OECD Regional Development Papers, No. 29, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/8a1fb523-en.

[4] OECD (2022), “Measuring the attractiveness of regions”, OECD Regional Development Papers, No. 36, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/fbe44086-en.

[6] OECD (forthcoming), OECD Regional Outlook 2023, OECD Publishing, Paris.

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