Key data by topic
In the long-term vision for rural areas, the European Commission sets out to achieve a vibrant future for the EU’s rural territories. These territories are defined by a wide range of qualities, from the beauty of their nature to the strength of their communities.
Rural areas also face a unique set challenges, including demographic changes, high risk of poverty, and a lack of access to basic facilities. In order to secure the best of their qualities, it is essential to understand and overcome the worst of their challenges.
Rural areas account for more than 341 m ha, which represent 83% of the total EU area in 2018. Agricultural land, forest and natural areas account for almost 80% of the EU’s area.
30.6% of the EU’s population lives in rural areas.
An older population: rural and remote areas have the lowest shares of the EU’s population in age groups below 50 years.
The percentage of population at risk of poverty and social exclusion is higher in rural areas than in towns and cities.
Access to services and infrastructure
The average road distance to essential services is much shorter in urban areas compared to rural areas. For example, in a city, the average road distance to the nearest doctor is 3.5km, while for remote rural areas, the average distance is almost 21.5 km.
Only 60% of households in rural areas have access to fast broadband (>30Mbps), compared to 86% of the EU population as a whole.
Employment and education
Gender employment gap
Education and skills
In 2018, the average GDP per capita in rural regions was only three quarters of the EU average.
The bioeconomy in the EU has annual turnover of €2.2 trillion euro and employs around 17.5 million people. The whole agri-food chain represents 75% of the employment in the EU’s bioeconomy and accounts for two-thirds of its turnover. In a high growth scenario, the total annual turnover of the EU Bioeconomy sector could reach up to €3 trillion by 2050, with the creation of up to 700,000 jobs, mostly in urban, coastal and rural areas.
At the EU level, the number of tourism nights per inhabitant in rural regions is three times higher than in urban regions.
Democracy and governance
In 2018 and 2019, 50% of rural residents tended to trust the EU compared to 55% of the city residents, while only 37% of rural residents tended to trust their national government (compared to 41% in cities). Rural residents are more likely to trust local and regional authorities (57%) than their national government or the EU.
Rural residents were more likely to participate in formal and informal voluntary activities (20% and 24%) than city residents were (17% and 22%) in 2015.
Cooperation, innovation and network
Most local innovation projects (53%) funded under the agricultural European innovation partnership focus on alternative types of farming, such as
- organic farming,
- conservation agriculture,
- adapting circularity principles to farming,
- bio-based production.