Nordic Population in 2040 – Executive summary

NordenBladet – How strong is the urbazination trend in the Nordics in the long haul? Will the rural areas be depopulated by 2040? This is the executive summary of the report The Nordic Population in 2040 – Analysis of past and future demographic trends.

The findings show that the rural areas in the Nordic region face several demographic challenges, but at the same time the rural future does not seem as grim as often predicted. The population and the working age population will continue to grow in the Nordic Region, but the fastest growth will occur in the old-age depency ratio challenging the Nordic welfare model with a growing group of pensioners compared to the working age population. The report is divided into three sections: projections of total urban and rural populations, projections of the age structure of the population, and projections of the working age populations.

If the expected future differs from what is desired, policy interventions can be designed and implemented to attempt to achieve the desired population outcome. This research examines the future size and age composition of the populations in the Nordic region at the national, regional, and municipal levels. The national statistical offices of all the Nordic countries and autonomous areas regularly produce projections of their populations which differ in detail, assumptions, and length of the projection period. To allow comparison across the Nordic regions, a typology of urban and rural regions is used with five different types of regions 1) predominantly urban regions, 2) intermediate regions, close to a city 3) intermediate regions, remote 4) predominantly rural regions, close to a city and 5) predominantly rural regions, remote. This classification is adopted from the OECD and is used throughout the report.

In depth analysis can be found in the original report The Nordic Population in 2040 – Analysis of past and future demographic trends.

Authors: Nora Sánchez Gassen and Timothy Heleniak
Publication date: 2019 June 18
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Nordregio is an international centre for research on regional development established by the Nordic Council of Ministers in 1997.


Nordregio has an international research environment with over 40 staff members from around the world. We are a flat organisation and work in project teams of junior and senior researchers along with a number of specialists. Nordregio is involved in a variety of projects running in parallel – usually 50 or more commitments at any given time – and we produce research papers and other policy relevant publications under all our fields of studies.

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The Nordregio Board of Directors is responsible for long-term strategic planning. It consists of one member from each of the five Nordic states (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) plus one observer from each of the three autonomous territories (the Faroe Islands, Greenland and the Åland Islands) as well as a member elected by the staff of Nordregio. The board is appointed by the Nordic Council of Ministers.

Statutes, “Grant letter” and the Nordregio Strategy 2020

Nordregio’s current statutes were passed on 17 December 2014. Article 1 states that Nordregio shall enhance Nordic co-operation on regional development, planning and policy; contribute to sustainable regional development (both urban and rural), in the Nordic countries; and maintain and develop its role as a leading European research centre, facilitating knowledge transfer between the Nordics and the EU. As of 2015, Nordregio receives an annual “Grant letter” from the Nordic Council of Ministers, which defines the expected performance goals and budget. This also reflects Nordregio’s role in the implementation of the new Nordic Co-operation Programme for Regional Development and Planning 2017-2020.

In December 2016, an additional, internal steering document was published: Nordregio 2020 Strategy. This was developed mainly for the staff of Nordregio itself, but also gives an overview of our activities in general. It includes our main research themes, methods and competencies as well as our vision and more concrete objectives towards 2020 and beyond.


Nordregio’s yearly turnover is about 40 million SEK. The annual funding from the Nordic Council of Ministers (NCM) covers 30-40% of the turnover. The balance comes from contract work for national and regional authorities and competitive bids on national and European research programmes such as Horizon 2020, the ESPON Programme and the INTERREG Programmes.


Nordregio was established by the Nordic Council of Ministers on 1 July 1997. However, Nordregio is built on over 40 years of Nordic collaboration as Nordregio took over a range of tasks that had previously been assigned to the three separate Nordic institutions Nordplan (1968), NordREFO (1967) and NOGRAN (1979).

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