Policy Brief: Shrinking rural regions in Europe

Towards smart and innovative approaches to regional development challenges in depopulating rural regions.

Demographic change in Europe is increasingly becoming a major policy challenge. Predominantly rural regions currently account for 28% of Europe’s population.

However, over the past decades a shrinking population has become the normal trajectory for many rural regions as agriculture has been restructured and population and employment have become increasingly concentrated in urban centres. By 2050, the population of Europe’s urban regions is projected to increase by 24.1 million persons and will provide home to almost half of the EU-28 population (Eurostat 2016). By contrast, the population of predominantly rural regions is projected to fall by 7.9 million.

The purpose of this Policy Brief is to identify shrinking rural regions and where they are located in Europe; explore key development challenges and opportunities; examine some policy responses using case study examples from shrinking rural regions; and present some emerging policy recommendations at European, national and sub-national levels.


ESPON Policy Brief on Shrinking Rural Regions.pdf

  • Acrobat Document | 4.45MB

ESPON map_population change rural regions.pdf

  • Acrobat Document | 8.54MB