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OECD Territorial Reviews: Northern Sparsely Populated Areas

image of OECD Territorial Reviews: Northern Sparsely Populated Areas

The northern sparsely populated areas (NSPA) of Finland, Norway and Sweden are becoming increasingly important to the geopolitical and economic interests of these countries and the European Union. These regions have unique geographical characteristics - low population density and a harsh climate - and face specific challenges due to an ageing population, long distances from markets, and high-cost land transport. However, high productivity growth is possible in low-density regions. This report sets out policy recommendations at cross-border, national and regional scales to enhance prosperity and well-being across the NSPA. This includes closer co-operation with national governments to address shared challenges and opportunities such as improving east-west transport connections and reducing occupational and skills barriers to labour mobility, and addressing barriers to business growth such as access to finance.

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Foreword and acknowledgements

Rural economies are facing significant changes. Increasing global competition is transforming the nature of production, and rural entrepreneurs and businesses have to adapt quickly to maintain their competitive edge. Rapid technological change is offering new growth opportunities, but this requires investment from businesses, the reorganisation of production processes, more advanced skills, and access to markets. Although the impacts have been uneven, the legacy of the economic crisis for many rural areas is lower growth and productivity and fewer job opportunities for local people. Governments are also facing fiscal pressures, given declining revenues and higher costs due to population ageing and rising unemployment.

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