This review focuses on four counties in South-East Sweden: Jönköping, Kronoberg, Kalmar and Blekinge. The review presents an overview of recent trends, regional policies and governance arrangements there. It addresses the specific challenges of the region and makes recommendations on how it can address them to strenghthen the local economy.
This chapter presents an overview of recent demographic, social and economic trends in the four counties of Småland-Blekinge, setting them in both Swedish and international contexts. It identifies a series of policy challenges for the region such as the need to facilitate a shift from the region’s historic specialisation in medium-low and low technology manufacturing towards more knowledge-intensive activities. This will require addressing the supply of human capital, improving connectivity and enhancing the attractiveness of the region. In addition, demographic trends raise increasing challenges for public service delivery, particularly in sparsely populated municipalities that are experiencing both population decline and accelerated population ageing. This reinforces the need to expand and deepen the range of instruments and institutions for inter-municipal co-operation.
Evolution of population concentration indexes, 1991-2009
Municipalities in Småland-Blekinge
Source: OECD Regional Database.
The lack of technology-intensive industries and knowledge-based enterprises and the lack of skilled labour are two inter-related factors constraining the competitiveness and growth opportunities of Småland Blekinge. The region’s traditional sectors need to evolve towards a knowledge-based economy to ensure the maintenance and growth of the region’s prosperity. Yet the adjustment of its industrial fabric will require a highly qualified and dynamic labour supply. The regional competitiveness of Småland-Blekinge relies greatly on its ability to attract and retain youth, migrants, women and their families, so that they can work, live and set up businesses in the area. This is directly related to the perceived attractiveness of the region in terms of quality of life and the availability of attractive jobs and business opportunities. This chapter first looks at how to ensure a highly qualified and dynamic labour supply by better integrating youth and women in the local economy and by attracting talent from outside. It then focuses on three main factors that could make Småland-Blekinge a more attractive place. First, more could be done to use its natural assets and amenities, already a well-known regional strength, as a basis for regional development. Second, the framework for business competitiveness could be enhanced. Third, regional connectivity needs to be improved to promote regional development and ensure good access to local amenities. A theme common to all three factors is the need for better co-ordination of the actors and policies dealing with regional development in Småland-Blekinge.
Brain drain in Småland-Blekinge
Source: Statistics Sweden.
This chapter considers the multi-level governance arrangements that can support more efficient regional development policies in Småland-Blekinge. The promotion of economic development is currently characterised by excessive fragmentation, duplication and overlap. The lack of co-ordination among actors and programmes, the increasing mobility of people and businesses across administrative borders, and the relatively small size of the four counties may affect the capacity to articulate comprehensive development agendas. The regionalisation reform under discussion has potentially significant implications for Småland-Blekinge, but it needs to be considered within the broader framework of problems of multi-level governance. Whatever the future administrative structure of Småland Blekinge, it will require the involvement and co-operation of different kinds of actors at different levels of government. The chapter first describes the governance structure of Småland-Blekinge and then analyses arguments to be considered when assessing the need for, and characteristics of, reform. Finally, it analyses a number of institutional and multi-level governance arrangements that besides the potential re-arrangement of the administrative borders in the region, could help to promote a coherent governance framework for regional development policies in the region.
For further information on the OECD Territorial Review of Småland Blekinge, Sweden, please contact William.Tompson@oecd.org
OECD work on Regional Development: www.oecd.org/gov/regionaldevelopment
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