Social and economic changes in rural areas in MEDCs
Several factors have led to a decline in employment in rural areas.
The mechanisation of agriculture means less people are needed to work on the land. Raw materials which may have been mined are becoming exhausted, so mines are closing.
Imported food and raw materials also decreases the demand from the countryside.
House price increases
Restrictions on new developments in National Parks means housing stock is restricted. Attractive areas found in National Parks create demand from second home owners pushing local people out of the price bracket.
The UK has a shortage of suitable homes. Greenfield sites are cheaper to build on than brownfield sites. Related problems, such as traffic congestion and increased car journeys are created.
Competition from abroad
There is now more competition from abroad – for example lamb can be importedat a competitive price from New Zealand. As agricultural income falls, farms diversify – into providing tourist accommodation, for instance. This is successful in some areas which attract tourists, but is limited in many areas. Tourism is also very seasonal in the UK.
The less accessible (remote) rural areas have a decreasing population. In these less accessible rural areas many of the younger population move out. Push factors for the young people are the shortage of jobs and a lack of social life.
However the rural areas which are accessible to urban areas have an increasing rural population – one reason is because of counter urbanisation.
Decline in services
The depopulation in remote areas means the local services decline. Independent stores and post offices become less profitable because of rural depopulation. Bus services may decline leaving the elderly cut off.
The changes in the less accessible (remote) rural areas leads to a cycle of decline.
Sustainable rural changes in MEDCs
- To make rural changes sustainable means to protect the resources, maintain the economy and not let the standard of life suffer for the present residents or those that follow. It is difficult to make sure every aspect of rural change is sustainable. There are some approaches which help towards achieving more sustainability:
- Local people can form co-operatives to provide services. Berrynarbor, Ilfracombe, has a community shop that is a good example. Nearly half of the villagers invested in the shop. There is space for locals to stop for coffee and use a computer. There are around 250 community shops in Britain.
- The government can give money to promote sustainability. The Environmental Stewardship Scheme (ESS) is one example, run by DEFRA. This pays the farmer to improve the landscape, promote public access and conserve wildlife.
- The EU can fund more deprived rural regions through funds such as the European Regional Development Fund. The government has to match the money put in by the EU.
- National parks in the UK are managed with sustainability in mind. Conflicts between recreation and conservation happen. These conflicts can be managed by clear signage for tourists, restrictions on developing land, and restrictions on traffic and park and ride schemes in some areas.