Developing Services in Sparsely Populated Municipalities in Nordic Countries
Knut Ingar Westeren
This chapter analyzes the service sectors in 36 municipalities, (ten each in Norway, Sweden, and Finland, four in Denmark and two in Iceland). The three characteristics used to select the municipalities are a peripheral location, a higher than average production in the agricultural sector, and a decline in population in the 1990s. In the European tradition, a peripheral location is often defined as a region having fewer than six inhabitants per square kilometer. Some of the municipalities included in the project have a higher population density, but they are situated on islands. Thus we can say that the municipalities discussed in this chapter represent a portion of Europe's real periphery.
This chapter first analyzes service sector trends in peripheral municipalities in the Nordic countries in the 1990s and evaluates whether the service sectors have been an engine of growth for the rural economy. Information is also provided about activities in which the municipalities had success in developing services, and strategies used to avoid reductions in services.
Two kinds of data collection were carried out. First, all service activities (private and public) in the municipalities and the changes in the number of activities during the period 1991-1996 were registered by sector. The study also asked all municipalities to describe the "success stories" that they had experienced in the service sector. All together, the municipalities reported 140 success stories. It is on the basis of these data that we discuss how different forms of cooperation between municipalities and other entities affect service availability in the region.