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Olli Lehtonen, Markku Tykkyläinen and Olli Voutilainen

Root causes of rural decline in economic well-being in Finland

This paper analyses how dependence on primary production, distance, climatic conditions and the intensity of land use bring about variations in economic well-being in rural areas. The conventional interpretation in Finland often concludes that economic well-being declines as dependence on primary production increases. The potential oversimplification implied by this statement was studied by testing the explanatory power of distance from the nearest large city, effective temperature sum and the proportion of fields in a comparative setting. The results revealed that economic well-being in rural Finland is best explained by the effective temperature sum, followed by distance, dependence on primary production and the proportion of fields. The only element of well-being which is determined chiefly by dependence on primary production is educational capital, causing a bottleneck preventing rural areas from becoming competitive and hence attractive to new knowledge-intensive industries. These results cast light on the spatial conditions under which the current economic evolution towards a service and knowledge society is taking place and on the spatial manifestations of remnant economic structures in disadvantageous locations.

Open access

Olli Lehtonen and Markku Tykkyläinen

Abstract

Despite strong secular economic growth after the crisis of 1990-93, most of rural Finland has continued to face severe job losses. By applying small-area analysis, this paper seeks to explain why some rural areas inevitably experience declining employment while others prosper and grow even faster than urban areas. The variation of job creation in rural small areas derives from local economic conditions, local demographic structure, proximity to larger centers, and natural conditions. Contrary to expectations, the coldest areas with nature reserves have passed the worst job loss. Those areas had a lower burden of declining primary industries than traditional agro-forest areas, and because of tourism, industry has expanded in some places in Lapland. The dependence of an area on the primary sector is a good indicator of the highest rural job losses during the urban-centric economic growth period. Especially the most resource dependent areas have lagged behind and fail in job creation on account of their uncompetitive industrial environment. Persistent labor surplus plagues such areas, implying that established policy measures have been unable to restructure and modernize traditional rural areas. Since Finnish rural and regional policies have been being inefficient they should be reformed especially in resource-based areas in a fundamental way.

Open access

Maija Halonen, Juha Kotilainen, Markku Tykkyläinen and Eero Vatanen

Abstract

The article aims to show how local industry life cycles impact the development of Finnish resource-based rural towns. This study reveals five long-term and overlapping industry cycles which were based on natural resources, assembly industries and service production. In general, the cycles have shortened over time. Transitions from cycle to cycle were enabled by the phases of resilience, which were highly dependent on political and economic processes at different scales. However, the political interventions of the last decades were unable to compensate for the disadvantages in competitiveness of this remote area and lay sustainable foundations for new industries. In the long run, the only exception has been the forest-related processing industry which has a capacity to renew its own operations and adapt to changing market situations. The results demonstrate the high significance of absolute advantage in rural development