No region in Germany will be left untouched by demographic change. The consequences, however, differ from region to region. In this interview with Kathrin Nolte, Dr. Christian Krajewski, a senior lecturer at the Institute of Geography at Münster University, explains the challenges facing cities and rural areas.
What effects is demographic change having on the regions in Germany? Cities and regions are affected in different ways by the consequences. On the one hand we have shrinking regions: predominantly rural, peripheral regions, as well as those regions undergoing structural change such as the Ruhr Area - which are marked not only by shrinking populations due to lower birth rates and by an outflow of young people in particular, but also by an ageing population. On the other hand are the winners, including big cities and university cities, which profit especially from an influx of young, educated, international people.
Does this mean that demographic change is increasing the differences which already exist anyway between urban and rural areas? Definitely - this polarisation will continue to grow. In the growth regions we have tight housing markets with prices rising, some steeply, and signs of overload in the infrastructure - with traffic often being the most visible example. If the population shrinks and ages to an excessive extent in the shrinking regions, then maintaining and funding public services - especially in rural areas - will become increasingly difficult. This is the big challenge we face if we want to ensure equal living conditions in all regions in Germany.
How can - or must - shrinking regions adapt to demographic change? They urgently need to address issues such as digitalisation, mobility and accessibility, new forms of working, and housing and living conditions. They need to draw up individual concepts in order to become more attractive - for young people in particular - so that they have strategies for inducing people to remain, thereby dealing with the lack of skilled workers, as well as for offering older people conveniences such as barrier-free facilities and quality services. Adapting public services is a task not only for the state or for private business, but also one involving responsibility being shouldered by residents in the sense of local and regional governance.
This interview was first published in the University newspaper wissen