International insights from initiatives to address population decline in sparsely populated areas

  • Jayne Glass (Speaker)

Activity: Talk, evidence or presentation typesOral presentation


This paper presents international learning from initiatives that seek to reverse population decline in sparsely populated areas. The research is informing current and future Scottish Government policy related to rural demographic change. Like in Sweden, the population of many sparsely populated areas in Scotland is in decline due to out-migration and more rapid ageing than in the country as a whole. Recent projections suggest that the population of these areas (which cover 41% of Scotland) will decline by 18.6% by 2043. The working age population in these areas is also projected to fall by 25.5% in the same period. This has implications for the size of the labour force, with access to services and housing also challenging in many places.

Analysis of 14 case studies (in Scotland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Ireland, the Faroe Islands, the USA and Canada) explored several repopulation initiatives targeted at new/returning residents. These included: financial incentives to encourage resettlement; diversifying the rural economy to attract new businesses; preferential housing allocation for new residents; improving local facilities and infrastructure to instil a sense of pride and greater place attachment; an island fellowship programme; and improving skills and employability, particularly for young people. Desk-based research and interviews with local actors deepened our understanding of common opportunities and challenges related to: inward migration (whether domestic or foreign); holistic approaches that include a range of initiatives; the importance of focussing on young people; and the need for effective communication of local values when implementing specific projects in collaboration with regional or national policy actors.

For more information on this and other recent work we have completed on rural demographic change, see:
Period11 Nov 2021
Event titleRuralities and Regions in Transition
Event typeConference
LocationSwedenShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • depopulation
  • repopulation
  • sparsely populated areas
  • rural communities
  • rural policy
  • island policy