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Support systems for new activities in rural areas
Part 1 - The support system
How to use this guide & Table of Contents
The area's characteristics will
The following factors are particularly decisive:
1) Geographical size
In the context of LEADER, this varies from around 100 km2 in certain islands to over 7 000 km2 in some northern Objective 6 LEADER areas (e.g. 38 800 km2 for the Inlandslaget area in Sweden).
3) Unemployment and social exclusion
Unemployment in LEADER areas can vary from less than 5% (e.g. Clervaux- Vianden in Luxembourg) to more than 30% in some Spanish areas. The extent of unemployment, combined with other forms of social exclusion of certain groups of the local population, very often has a considerable effect on the definition of the main targets of the support system.
4) Dependence on agriculture
This varies from under 3% of the working population in some German LEADER groups to more than 70% in some Greek areas. The level of dependence on agriculture considerably influences the type of activity likely to be developed, the people affected and the methods of aftercare necessary.
5) The degree of specialisation
Some areas have a very diversified economy (the case of many LEADER areas in Northern Italy), whereas others are specialised in one or more key industrial sectors. Areas also differ in their industrial strategy: some emphasise building on core strengths whereas others are more concerned with diversifying out of declining sectors.
6) proximity to large urban centres
Some LEADER areas can almost be considered as commuter suburbs of large conurbations and in certain cases are therefore able to benefit from the services available in towns (a partnership has been formed in this way between the Montana de Navarra LEADER group and the BIC in Pamplona). Others may be situated several hours by road from the nearest service centre, which obliges them to be more independent.
7) Average earnings per inhabitant
This can vary from under half the European average (certain LEADER areas in Greece, Spain and Portugal) to 20% more (certain areas in Northern Europe). It is worth noting that the last two factors affect the supply of rather than the demand for support services: wealthier areas with large service centres are obviously likely to be fairly well covered by other public agencies or the private sector.
8) The levels of qualification of the local population
Levels of qualification can vary considerably from one area to another. The traditional gap existing in this field between rural areas and urban areas has tended to have decreased considerably everywhere, but depending on the infrastructures and teaching efforts made in each country, significant differences still remain between the various regions of Europe.
Because of unemployment in the cities, and also because of the more attractive image of rural areas, many people are now interested in staying in the countryside or going back there as soon as possible. Similarly, many rural areas are managing to attract skilled people with significant experience. The return of these people can open up new opportunities for the area, because many"repatriated" people are responsible for setting up independent businesses.
9) The local population's dynamism and attitude to risk
Paradoxically, this is sometimes inversely proportional to the level of development or income: some communities which have become used to a relatively high standard of living from one or two staple industries, for example, have enormous difficulties in responding to change or taking initiatives. On the other hand, relatively poor areas, with a tradition of "making ends meet" by all kinds of activities, may prove to have enormous resources of energy and inventiveness.