Sweden has experienced strong economic development during the past two decades, which is also reflected in regional growth. However, the repercussions of the deep recession in 2008/09 and change in the demand for natural resources and trade in services have meant that this regional growth presents a more fragmented picture.
Despite the capability clearly shown by the regions to recover and adapt, the challenges faced such as climate, environmental and energy issues, globalisation, social cohesion and demographic development will require the continued commitment of all actors in reinforcing competitiveness at regional level. These challenges, as identified in "En nationell strategi för hållbar regional tillväxt och attraktionskraft 2015-2020" (A national strategy for sustainable regional growth and attractiveness in 2015-2020), are to be met by prioritising efforts to promote growth in four areas: attractive environments and accessibility, innovation and enterprise, the provision of skills, and international collaboration. All these priorities except the last one are described in the report Regional tillväxt 2015 (Regional growth in 2015).Regional attractiveness is a combination of many often elusive factors. That said, human migration patterns and accommodation preferences are seen as quite a fair general indicator of a region’s attractiveness. Only nine out of sixty functional analysis (FA) regions have a positive domestic net migration pattern, which has been used here as an overall measure of regional attractiveness. It is the larger regions which are proving to be more attractive and bringing in more people. The extensive immigration of recent years has indeed resulted in a population increase and greater diversity in all FA regions, but the relocation of immigrants at a later stage is also contributing to a greater migration deficit in many smaller, remote regions. One positive trend is that there has been rather less relocation in the case of young adults from small FA regions, seen in relative terms, but this group is still generating a substantial shortfall in men and an even more substantial shortfall in women in the more remote regions.
Physical planning is an important instrument in creating attractive environments for accommodation and work. At an overall level, the concentration and size of population constitute fundamental planning parameters at all levels of decision-making. A continuous increase in population concentration can be seen both among the FA regions and within almost all of them. Population growth covaries with the size of FA region, and less remote rural regions indicate a fall in population. Commuter patterns determine people’s everyday lives to a large extent and are thus a relevant aspect of the planning as well. Half of the population who are in employment have relatively short commuting distances of less than five kilometres. It can be noted here that the majority of commuters in metropolitan regions and regions with urban centres travel somewhat longer distances than do those in other groups of FA regions. Remotely situated FA regions are, however, characterised in many cases by extremely long distances between the home and place of work.
Accessibility to services is essential for being able to live and work in different parts of the country. The median distance in remote rural areas where a high proportion of the inhabitants is concentrated in a few urban centres is somewhat better compared to FA regions where the population is more spread out. Relatively long distances for a small proportion of the population in FA regions often covary with other socio-economic disadvantages such as a higher proportion of older inhabitants, lower levels of income etc. In total 152,000 people have a car journey taking more than ten minutes to their nearest shop. Despite a good overall standard of IT infrastructure, there remain large regional differences in terms of the expansion of broadband. In the many small FA regions in Norrland’s hinterland, Småland and northern Skåne, less than 30 per cent of the population are able to use broadband up to 100 Mbit/s. Accessibility via the transport system is expressed in terms of the indicators proportion of population with less than 1 km to the nearest bus stop and distance of population from a petrol station. The median distance to a petrol station is 1,600 metres in total, a figure that has not changed significantly since 2009. The disparities between the various parts of the country are, however, great. The distances in certain remote FA regions are more than twice as great as those in FA regions with more favourable structures. Similar structures are seen as regards accessibility to public transport, although accessibility in northern Norrland is poorer.
Regional growth 2015 - a report on conditions and trends in Sweden’s regions