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Regional disparities on the rise: taking stock of the trends shaping the Nordic Region

State of the Nordic Region 2024 is out! The 20th edition takes stock of the latest development trends on demography, labour market and economy across the Nordic countries and regions.

Nordic finance ministers discuss Nordregio research

On June 3 and 4, the Nordic finance ministers convened in Stockholm to address shared economic challenges. Key topics included the economic and political management of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the subsequent energy and inflation crises in the Nordic region.

Nordic geographies of discontent – what are the drivers?

The recent years have been marked by a rising sentiment of discontent, increasingly polarised political debates and shifting political attitudes and electoral behaviour across the Western liberal democracies. The Nordic countries have also seen their share of emerging political discontent, increasing urban-rural and periphery-centre divides, as well as economic, social, cultural, and demographic divergence that contribute towards forming geographies of discontent. Myriam Chilvers, Research Fellow at Nordregio and one of the authors, sums up some of the key questions as “Is political discontent driven by where you live, either in a remote rural area or a big city? And how can this discontent be measured in a transparent way? Which are the driving forces of political discontent?” and adds that while academics and political thinkers alike have long thought that the apparent voting divide between rural and urban areas may provide a hint on both questions, there is more to explore. “This paper has established some of the key economic, social, cultural or demographic factors that might be driving this phenomenon in a Nordic context”, she notes. The working paper and the map have been published as a part of ‘Ensuring inclusive economic growth in the transition to a green economy (EnIGG)’ project. The work in the project continues until the end of 2024. Looking ahead, Carlos Tapia, Senior Research Fellow at Nordregio, explains: “The next step will be to look deeper into whether geographies of discontent have appeared in the Nordics, and develop an empirical model to quantify the influence of the various factors fuelling discontent”. More results will follow in the upcoming months. About ‘Ensuring inclusive economic growth in the transition to a green economy (EnIGG)’ projectThe project analyses how the Nordic countries can accelerate the green transition towards a climate-neutral economy. It explores the issue from different…

Can Nordic-Baltic collaboration help bridge the digital divide?

No social inclusion without digital inclusion. By joining forces, the Nordic and Baltic countries can enhance their efforts in bridging the digital divide. Nordregio’s “Digital Inclusion in the Nordic-Baltic Region” conference held in Stockholm 14-15 May, which introduced new research, tools and strategic collaboration, marks a step towards joint efforts in address this pressing issue. Approximately 85 experts from across the Nordic and Baltic region gathered in Stockholm to discuss challenges, solutions and the future for inclusion through new research, tools, and methodologies. The conference attracted policymakers, practitioners, civil society actors, academia and private sector, creating an interactive environment for dialogue and exchange. Throughout the two conference days, we welcomed renowned speakers from different countries and sectors, launched reports and tools, and made room for discussion on how to further cooperation across the region. Dan Sjöblom, Director-General of the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (PTS) and Representative for the Swedish presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2024, opened the conference, offering a context to the conference by emphasising the need to integrate digital inclusion into broader societal contexts. “Digital inclusion is no longer a standalone issue,” Sjöblom stated. “Being excluded digitally means being excluded from society. We need to start talking about being included in society overall.” And the conference was kicked off! 19 new policies – and the Nordic-Baltic digital paradox The Nordic and Baltic societies are among the most digitalised in the world, and while this progress brings many benefits, it can also deepen societal divides. Sigrid Jessen, researcher at Nordregio and project leader for “Digital Inclusion in Action” discussed how the so-called Nordic-Baltic digital paradox of digital advancements can exacerbate exclusion for those unable to participate. So, what is being done in the Nordic and Baltics to address this? Nordregio’s report “National Digital Inclusion Initiatives…

Learning together to change how we use and plan our shared seas 

In the face of climate change, biodiversity loss, and emerging maritime activities, we need to redefine how we collaborate over sea basins in the Nordic and Baltic Region. Rapid growth in industries like wind energy, fishing, and shipping is good for the economy but can harm the environment. Finding a balance is crucial – but how?  The European Union is moving to update Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) practices in response to these challenges, but with knowledge and decision-making decentralised across countries and authorities, solutions are complicated to reach. Diverse countries and stakeholders possess pieces of the puzzle, underscoring the need for an MSP framework that is not only flexible but also visionary in the long term. We need to change how we use, know and plan the seas as we navigate a challenging future in which adaptive and collaborative governance is key.  eMSP NBSR brings together decision-makers to address challenges  The European Green Deal protects the seas, encouraging sustainable human activities in areas such as renewable energy and cleaner shipping. This is the backdrop against which the eMSP NBSR project operates. The research project, which stands for “Emerging Ecosystem-based Maritime Spatial Planning Topics in the North and Baltic Sea Regions”, develops knowledge and links stakeholders within the five most emerging topics in MSP: ocean governance, ecosystem-based MSP, sustainable blue economy, monitoring and evaluation, and data sharing.  Through collaboration and knowledge-sharing, eMSP is developing the capacity to better equip policymakers to address current and future challenges in the North and Baltic sea regions. The project’s culmination recently took place with a conference and the delivery of seven policy briefs, aimed at EU policymakers, local and regional authorities, maritime planners, businesses, NGOs, researchers, and universities.  Nordregio was responsible for facilitating the eMSP NBSR Scientific Advisory Board and for documenting the learning in…

Will electric aviation take off in the Nordic Region?

Are we going to see electric airplanes criss-crossing the Nordic skies in the near future? The distinctive geography and commitment to climate neutral transport in the Nordics sets the stage for an ideal testing ground for new innovations. But if electric aviation becomes a reality, how would it impact regions and local communities? Nordregio’s new report offers insights through case studies and future scenarios. Exploring the future of electric aviation in the Nordic Region Electric aviation has potential to transform aviation and offer a solution for more sustainable air travel. While the topic is attracting increasing interest and gaining momentum, there is still much to explore. As Rebecca Cavicchia, Senior Research Fellow at Nordregio, explains: “when it comes to research about electric aviation, most of the studies have focused on the technical aspects of airplanes and infrastructure. However, it is important to look at the regional development dimension as well.” Five Nordic scenarios highlight challenges and opportunities The report presents five case studies and future scenarios for electric aviation in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden and maps out a ten-year future scenario for turning electric aviation into reality in specific routes and regions. Building on insights from analyses and focus group discussions with local stakeholders, the report draws out trajectories for connections between: “All cases are unique and shed light on different aspects and nuances of electric aviation”, Jonas Kačkus Tybjerg, Research Assistant at Nordregio and one of the report’s co-authors, notes. The views differ from looking at electric aviation as means of working towards climate targets, leveraging it as a catalyst for regional development and connecting remote areas, or seeing it as a novel alternative to conventional flights. The cases highlight both the positive and negative sides of the electric aviation. “We looked at the issue broadly and…

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Nordic Day on mobility and cross-border collaboration – where are we in 2024?

Overcoming mobility issues for Nordic citizens and businesses is a key part of the work in becoming the most integrated and sustainable region by 2030. In times of global challenges we need strengthened political commitment to solving Nordic regional issues. How do we facilitate freedom of movement in the future? This was the central question at Monday's event in Stockholm ahead of Nordic Day 23 March.

A new typology tool available – enabling spatial analysis more detailed than ever

Uppsala, Sweden’s largest rural municipality – while being Sweden’s fourth largest city? Up until now, it was impossible to conduct a comparative Nordic analysis of such internal differences within municipalities. But with Nordregio’s new tool, you can move beyond the traditional municipal-level analysis using a 1×1 km grid, allowing for an unprecedented level of detail in territorial studies. The Nordic urban-rural typology illustrates the complexity and diversity within the regions and captures nuances that have previously been missed. Mats Stjernberg, senior researcher at Nordregio explains: “In reality, a municipality can simultaneously comprise various types of areas. If we classify a municipality like Uppsala as being either ‘a’ or ‘b’, we lose the ability to perceive these differences within the municipality.” “The most novel aspect is that it is based on a grid level, down to kilometre level. Until now, there hasn’t been anything as detailed at a Nordic level.”, Anna Vasilevskaya, GIS Analyst at Nordregio. The typology can be used to get  insights into demographic trends and significant advancement in spatial analysis, for a more sophisticated approach to addressing and planning for the needs of diverse territories, for example planning of housing markets, and urban and rural services. Up until now, the most used classification system for international comparisons between countries has been DEGURBA from Eurostat, classifying areas into three types of territories: cities (densely populated areas); towns and suburbs (intermediate density areas) and rural areas (thinly populated areas). This set-up of parameters can create classifications that don’t always correspond to what those municipalities are like in reality. For example, Gällivare in northern Sweden, is classified as an intermediate municipality by DEGURBA. Meaning, not urban, not rural, but somewhere in between. Gällivare is, however, extremely sparsely populated and even uninhabited in large parts, with most of the population living very…
  • 2024 March

National initiatives are critical catalysts for sustainable urban development

Central governments in the Nordics often find their hands tied in influencing local-level priorities, especially concerning land use. This has sparked a series of innovative planning approaches and support mechanisms to encourage sustainable urban development across the region. But striking a balance with respect to state-municipal governance is essential, explains Johannes Lidmo, a researcher at Nordregio. “It is necessary to avoid overly strict control. You need to consider how national support initiatives can strengthen already existing local efforts aimed at sustainable urban development”, says Johannes Lidmo. “It is clear, though, that they can be useful complementary tools to spatial planning.” Lidmo is one of the co-authors of a new report titled “National Support Initiatives in Nordic Spatial Planning,” which analyses programs across Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland. It showcases a variety of approaches to sustainable urban development, from Norway’s FutureBuilt initiative, focusing on reducing carbon emissions in construction, to Denmark’s Partnership for Vibrant City Centres and its concerted effort to keep city centers alive and thriving. It was important for the authors to study various types of national support initiatives rather than comparing similar ones. “The purpose of this was to shed light on the different approaches that can be found in the Nordic countries; so they can be an inspiration or be adopted at either the national or local level in other contexts,” explained Johannes Lidmo. The other case studies the report dives into is Sweden’s Visions: in the North, which aims to integrate beauty, inclusivity, and sustainability into urban development. It looks at Finland’s Sustainable City Programme that pushes for smart, sustainable urban living solutions. Finally, Iceland’s Borgarlína project which a testament to bottom-up climate action and sustainable transport planning. Against the backdrop of these municipal case studies and comparative analysis, the report highlights the different ways…
  • 2024 March

Our food choices are not rational – do we need a sugar tax, meat tax and subsidies on fruit and vegetables to make us eat better?

Changing our eating habits is the most effective thing we can do for both public health and the climate in the Nordics. According to a new report, taxes and subsidies are key policy tools for making that happen. Thought leaders in the food system call for strong governmental action and more collaboration for better evidence-based policies. Dietary habits are a major factor in disease development, and food systems are responsible for one-third of human-caused emissions. The new report “Policy tools for sustainable and healthy eating” explores policy measures that could facilitate the adoption of sustainable and healthy food alternatives at a time when scientific evidence repeatedly underscores the mounting pressures on both climate and public health. “This new report gives us the direction and tools for the difficult decisions we need to make and the discussions we need to have in order to make things easier for people to live sustainably and healthily,” says Karen Ellemann, Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers. The report demonstrates how the Nordic countries can bolster their food consumption strategies in various ways and create an environment that makes it possible for citizens to eat sustainably and healthily. Taxes and subsidies are key policy tools and the report also suggests co-operation on labelling and marketing regulations to make it easier for people in the Nordics to enjoy healthier and more climate-friendly diets. People want cheaper fruits and vegetables – where is the political response? During the report launch event, several panel discussions were held with a mix of representatives from academia, government, industry, and civil society. Olga Grönvall Lund, representing the association Reformaten, highlighted the disconnect between politicians’ readiness to employ policy tools and the communication of these efforts to the public, underscoring the urgent need for more informed decision-making by both policymakers…

New NATO map to mark Sweden’s full membership

With Sweden’s NATO accession, all Nordic countries are now full members of the Alliance. To mark this milestone, Nordregio has published an updated map showing NATO and non-NATO membership in Europe. Sweden became NATO’s 32nd member on 7 March 2024. Finland joined in 2023, while Denmark, Iceland, and Norway count among the founding members and part of the Alliance since 1949. Nordregio marks this new era of defence cooperation with an updated NATO map. The new map is a follow-up to our earlier editions (from 2015 and 2023) that have been among Nordregio’s most viewed maps.
  • 2024 March

Combining carrots and sticks: How to nudge the Nordics towards sustainable and healthy eating habits

When it comes to getting us to eat in a way that’s healthier and more climate-friendly, we need both the crack of the whip in the form of taxes, and the dangle of a carrot in the form of subsidies. But information campaigns and other measures are also required if we’re to succeed. That’s what Leneisja Jungsberg, Senior Research Fellow at Nordregio, says. Leneisja Jungsberg is a co-author of the report Policy tools for sustainable and healthy eating. The report assists with the follow-up to and implementation of the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations (NNR2023), which were published last year and attracted a lot of attention, largely because of the links drawn between our food and the climate for the first time. This follow-up report goes one step further and looks at what policy can do specifically to steer our eating habits towards being more climate-smart. The report mentions, among other things, a sugar tax, a meat tax, and subsidies for fruit and veg. “If you want to get people in the Nordics to change their eating habits, it’s important to consider a combination of policy instruments and incentives. Although taxes and subsidies play a significant role, they must be supplemented by measures such as information campaigns and things to nudge them in the right direction,” says Leneisja Jungsberg. According to Jungsberg, politicians have a responsibility to put the necessary guidelines in place and to promote cooperation between the public and private sectors. Politicians must also create a stable foundation through legal and administrative frameworks. Jungsberg says that the most important message from the report is that we have to understand how various food-related, personal, and socio-environmental factors affect the way in which we react to different control instruments. “In assessing policy instruments from a behavioural change perspective, it becomes clear how…

What are the best city parks in the Nordics?

During the recent launch of the handbook, Green and Healthy Nordic Cities, the presenters and audience were asked to share their favorite park in the city where they live.
  • 2024 February

Monitoring and assessing digital inclusion in the Nordic-Baltic region

Our Nordic and Baltic societies are becoming more and more digital, where digital skills are required to seek jobs and educational opportunities, use health care services or perform economic activities. This leads to a paradox – causing a higher degree of digital exclusion for those who cannot, or choose not, to use these services. Digital Inclusion in Action launches two significant publications during a launch webinar. The event, led by researchers Sigrid Jessen and Maja Brynteson, unveiled a policy report on national digital inclusion initiatives in the Nordic and Baltic countries and a discussion paper on monitoring practices in these regions. The policy report, co-authored by Nicola Wendt-Lucas, Sigrid Jessen and Maja Brynteson, delves into the national policies and initiatives of the Nordic and Baltic countries concerning digital inclusion. It reveals a substantial increase in initiatives related to digital inclusion, evidenced by the publication of 19 new strategies in less than two years. Despite the lack of a common definition of digital inclusion across these countries, there seems to be a shared understanding of its fundamental aspects, emphasising social justice and inclusion. The report also identifies the primary target groups for digital inclusion as older adults and people with disabilities, with some policies also focusing on immigrants, women, younger adults, and lower-income and education groups. A key takeaway from the report is the necessity for more harmonised monitoring to develop in-depth studies and evidence-based policies. The discussion paper, presented by partners from Digital Europe, Louise Palludan Kampmann and Lasse Wulff Andersen, emphasises the importance of monitoring digital inclusion to understand its scale and to foster evidence-based policymaking. The paper suggests that while the Nordic and Baltic countries have made significant strides in digital inclusion at the policy level, there is a gap in implementing corresponding monitoring practices. Key recommendations from…

Report to ensure gender equality in the Nordic blue economy

The blue economy, including maritime industries like fisheries, aquaculture, and tourism, is a vital sector in the Nordic region, and particularly for many coastal communities. However, the participation and representation of women in this sector have lagged behind, raising concerns about gender equality, inclusion and even harassment. A new report from Nordregio sheds light on this issue, offering insightful data and actionable recommendations, is now launched to increase gender equality in the blue economy. The “Ensuring Gender Equality in the Nordic Blue Economy” report, authored by Anna Karlsdóttir and Hjördis Guðmundsdóttir, was launched at Arctic Frontiers in Tromsö, Norway – a conference for science, policy and business in the Arctic region. The report highlights significant strides in gender equality within the Nordic blue economy, but also points out areas needing attention. “The notion of gender, women or equality is, with very few exceptions, absent from literature relate to the blue economy. This needs to be fixed! This lack of prioritizing gender equality is a challenge, not only for women, but for securing local communities along the coast, and creating equitable opportunities for leadership”, Karlsdóttir explains. Nordic Council of Ministers Secretary General Karen Ellemann, opening the joint Nordregio, Nordic Council of Ministers and ProTromsø event at the Arctic Frontiers, emphasised the importance of this research, stating, “Women are significantly underrepresented in the blue economy, and that is a problem for several reasons – not only because gender equality in these sectors boosts sustainability. When women are involved in natural resources, it benefits sustainability.” Harassment and harsh culture a problem for the sector Even though advancements have been made in several sectors, challenges remain – and some challenges come in the shape of sexual harassment. Susanne Mortensen, fisher and author of the opinion piece that set in motion the fishing industry’s Metoo…

Enhancing economic competence in Åland: Insights and strategies for policy enhancement

How can Åland improve its economic competence to manage future challenges? A new policy briefing on the topic emphasises the island’s importance of addressing contemporary megatrends, including demographic shifts, globalisation, digitalisation, and climate change. The article is a contribution to the Centrum Balticum Policy Briefing series and is written by Anna Lundgren, Senior Research Fellow at Nordregio, and co-author Jukka Teräs at NORCE. Åland, the autonomous region with slightly over 30,000 inhabitants in the Baltic Sea, is both an island economy and strongly interconnected with its neighbours in the global world, for example through international shipping, trade, tourism and international networks. In this policy briefing, the authors explore the implementation of the EU Structural Funds in Åland (2014-2020) and discuss how Åland can improve its economic competence to manage future challenges. The development of firms is closely linked to the macro-level economic development of the region, and to release systemic benefits and foster sustainable development, it is important to analyse current megatrends and engage with stakeholders from different levels of government. Moreover, to improve the organisational, technical and learning capabilities in a small economy such as Åland, attracting talent and competence and fostering place-based solutions is important. Read the policy briefing here.

Unwrapping Generational Delights: Nordic Christmas Care Map Revealed! 

As the year approaches its grand finale, the prospect of holiday relaxation beckons. However, we empathise with parents from whom the jolly chaos of keeping up with little ones can sometimes make you yearn for the tranquillity of your regular day job. Fear not! In some parts of our Nordic Region, help is closer than you might think.  Nordregio presents: The Generational Guardian Map  Our research led us to discover hidden corners in the Nordics, where the magic of Christmas care unfolds in a delightful generational dance. Here’s your sneak peek into the heartwarming narrative of our “Generational Guardian Map.”  As it turns out, the Generational Guardian heatmap puts the spotlight on Värmdö, Täby, Stockholm, Solna, Älmhult and Växjö in Sweden; Tårnby, Høje-Taastrup and Rødovre in Denmark; Ii, Laukaa, Sipoo in Finland; Lemland in Åland, Grimstad, Vegårshei, Hægebostad, Hareid, Frøya, Overhalla and Bodø in Norway; Borgarbyggð and Vestmannaeyjabær in Iceland; Vágar in Faroe Islands; and Kujalleq in Greenland. In other words: this is where you, parents of young children, can ensure your Christmas is not only festive but restful too.   Mapping Generational Harmony  Imagine a village where the wisdom of grandparents intertwines seamlessly with the laughter of children, creating a Nordic symphony of care.   Our GIS and demographic data have artfully painted this blissful image, to guide you to the corners where the elderly step in to look after the little ones, and where no senior is left alone for the holidays. This map is our gift to you – a ticket to a Christmas where generations unite to make the holidays truly enchanting.  Let’s decipher the ratios that paint a picture of the interplay between the elderly and the young in Nordic municipalities.  The map ingeniously displays the ratio of elderly individuals to children, acting as a key to…

Young people in the Nordic countries demand changes for sustainability

On November 1-3, 2023, a youth conference took place as part of the Education for Sustainability project, led by Rannís on behalf of the Nordic Council of Ministers in collaboration with Samfés. Over 70 young people from all Nordic countries and autonomous regions of the Nordic countries attended the conference. The topic of the conference was to hear the voices of young people and get their opinions on how schools address sustainability and how sustainability can be integrated with the existing curriculum. The young people who attended the conference worked together in workshops and came to a conclusion about the steps they believe are essential for a sustainable future. They emphasized that, first and foremost, information and skills are required in order to address the challenges that society faces. They wanted to do this by creating a special subject that deals with sustainability alone but also emphasised that the skills and abilities of teachers in the field need to be strengthened. Their third suggestion was to give students and young people further opportunities to have an impact on their own future and express their views. The results were presented to the Minister of Education and Children, Ásmundur Einar Daðason, at a formal event. In the picture, the minister receives the group’s results. The visiting youth also had the chance to connect and explore Iceland through a variety of formal and informal programs, with a focus on experiencing Icelandic culture and nature. Iceland holds the presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers, and this event was part of Iceland’s presidency plan. Here, you can access the results of the group: Young people and the future Education for Sustainable development The project Education for sustainability has established a cooperation network in and between the Nordic countries that works to integrate sustainability into…

Embracing a Just Green Transition: Insights from the Nordic Tripartite Dialogue

The Nordic tripartite collaboration faces a significant challenge: ensuring a just green transition in the region’s labour market. How are the Nordic countries tackling this? This question took centre stage at the Nordic Tripartite Dialogue for a Green Transition on the Nordic Labour market, held in Reykjavik on 1 December. Nordregio attended to present best practices as well as attitudes towards climate change across the Nordic Region. Representatives from government, employer organisations and trade unions gathered to discuss the current status: where we are and where we’re going when it comes to the green transition on the joint Nordic labour market. The goal was to spark a dialogue on how the three parties can work together to ensure a systemic transition where no one is left behind when moving to a greener future in the Nordic Region. The outcome of the event is stated in the Reykjavik Memorandum of Understanding – establishing the common principles and key messages aligning governments, employees, and employers. The Challenge: Ensuring a Just Green Transition in Nordic Labour Markets Recognising the need for a green transition, the participants collaboratively addressed challenges and embraced opportunities that come with it. “Our job is to meet the goals of the fair green transition. That is our duty to current and coming generations”, Iceland’s minister of Social Affairs and Labour, Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, emphasised as he opened the meeting. Nordregio’s publication, Embracing the Just Green Transition on the Nordic Labour Market, served as background and inspiration for the dialogue meeting in Reykjavik. The report offers basic knowledge about the green transition, and how it impacts the Nordic Region. It also showcases best practices from Nordic examples of how a just green transition can be tackled. Embracing a Just Green Transition Offering a foundation for the dialogue, Nordregio researcher Gustaf…
  • 2023 December

With Black Friday around the corner, the Nordic Co-operation urges consumers to be mindful of their spending

Did you know that people in the Nordics buy more clothes than the rest of the world and our consumption has increased by 40 % during the last 20 years? The Nordic countries often pride themselves on their climate actions, yet we continue to consume textiles in an unsustainable way. Textile production accounts for 10 % of global carbon emissions, exceeding those from international flights and maritime shipping. And the Nordic countries are no exception. The average person in the Nordic Region buys and wears an astonishing amount of clothing each year: Between 26 and 48 garments per person. We throw away around 11 kilograms of textiles every year, with less than 1 % being recycled. The first step one can take is to have a look in one’s own wardrobe, says Swedish sustainable fashion expert Jennie Dahlén “Most people own a lot of clothes with the average Swedish wardrobe containing about 160 items. It’s important to make the most of what we already have and get better at styling and utilizing the clothes we own.” There is a need for a paradigm shift Upcycling, mending, swapping, and borrowing clothes with each other are other strategies Dahlén advocates for. But we also need to change our perception of consumption. “Everything around us signals that we should consume more. We need to show that this isn’t necessary. Instead, we could be more creative and experiment with our personal style.” Regarding necessary legislation for a more sustainable fashion industry, Dahlén points to upcoming EU laws and Swedish efforts to manage textile waste. “It’s crucial to remove the worst-quality clothing from the market and design products that last,” she argues, suggesting economic incentives for repair and recycling over new purchases. Look for the Nordic Swan Ecolabel when you buy something new When it…