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Rural Development policy 2007-2013

Employment in rural areas

The reinforced EU rural development policy focuses on jobs, growth and sustainability. Europe's rural areas must exploit fully their potential in creating high-quality, sustainable jobs and in meeting the Lisbon objectives.   

Europe's rural areas are diverse in terms of population, demography, economic and social structures and labour markets. It is this diversity that is part of their richness. Nevertheless, many of Europe's rural areas face a common challenge – their capacity to create high-quality, sustainable jobs is falling behind urban areas.

Europe's rural areas represent 91% of the territory in EU 27 and about 56% of the population live in predominantly and significantly rural areas. Rural areas generate 45% of gross value added in EU 27 and 53% of the employment.

Two large scale processes of demographic change are taking place in Europe: a long established "urbanisation" trend drawing population and economic activity out of remote rural areas into urban and accessible rural areas, and a more recent "counter-urbanisation" flow out of urban areas into accessible rural areas made possible by new transport and ICT infrastructure.

The service sector is the biggest employer in Europe's rural areas but is smaller compared to urban areas and tends to be dominated by the public sector. This is due to the underdevelopment of private services which remain largely urban, and is reflected in the slower shift to activities centred in the knowledge-based economy.

Deficit of skills and human capital in rural areas compared with urban areas has been observed. Adult population with tertiary education is only around 15% and the situation of women and young people remains precarious often resulting in the out-migration of females and youngsters in economically active age groups.

Europe's rural areas are diverse and include many leading regions. However, some rural areas, and in particular those which are most remote, depopulated or dependent on agriculture will face particular challenges as regards growth, jobs and sustainability in the coming years. These include lower levels of income, an unfavourable demographic situation, lower employment rates and higher unemployment rates, a slower development of the tertiary sector, weaknesses in skills and human capital, a lack of opportunities for women and young people.

Rural development measures should be fully exploited for employment and growth, and job creation and maintenance should be strongly encouraged. New working places and better working conditions can be created if measures such as farm investments, training, promotion adaptation and development of rural areas, farm tourism, environmental and village renewal, landscape preservation, cultural heritage, etc. are implemented. Innovative start-ups can further contribute to employment in rural areas and boost their development and diversification, and in particular by focusing at young people and women.

Multi-sectoral, area-based approaches (for example Leader) based on a partnership approach should be encouraged. In the light of these future challenges, an integrated approach of Community and Member State policies combined with a strong focus on human capital and skills will be key elements in exploiting the opportunities for growth and employment that exist in rural areas.




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Monitoring and evaluation

Less Favoured Area scheme


   - ICT



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Last update: 04-03-2009