Every year Eurostat publishes its regional book, providing valuable data and
statistics on a wide range of fields, from demography to digital transition,
passing through health, business and living conditions.
The book includes a comprehensive chapter wholly dedicated to European cities. It looks into three main areas of high concern: demographic evolution, education and employment, and lifestyle, offering significative insights for evidence-based policy-making.
As cities become more and more important being business, economy and social innovation hubs, one might assume that urban population is solely growing. Well, the general trend confirms such assumption: cities’ population keeps on growing from decades, while rural areas get emptier. Though, there are some exceptions: cities that once were industrial heartlands, which have not been able to adapt to a fast-paced technological progress, are losing inhabitants in favour of more attractive destinations, especially in terms of employment opportunities.
This is the case of many urban areas in Belgium, France and Germany. Cities ‘left behind’ by globalization, that do not offer enough opportunities in the newborn and successful sectors such as IT, digital, or financial services.
In fact, beside mere depopulation, such cities often see higher levels of poverty, social exclusion and long-term unemployed: sort of ‘stagnating cities’.
Innovative job opportunities usually attract young and skilled professionals, determining changes also in the population distribution. In other words, the more a city keeps up with progress, the more it is likely to get young citizens.
Nonetheless, in some EU member states, cities might not be the best place where to find a new job. In most western and southern economies in the EU, people living in cities face the greatest difficulties in moving out of unemployment if compared with rural areas of the same countries.
Furthermore, in countries such as Ireland, Cyprus, Italy, Portugal and the UK, nationals have less chances of finding a job than foreigners. In those states, unemployment level is lower for people born in another EU state than for nationals. Although, when considering non-EU migrants, the frame is the opposite. In Belgium, Finland and Sweden the difference in unemployment rate between nationals and migrants is the highest - but the other way around: there, migrants are those with fewer opportunities. According to the report, these data reflect a lack of capacity to assimilate migrants form non-member states into the labour market.
estern European cities do not stand out either for the living conditions. Actually, we are in presence of the so-called ‘urban paradox’
: western EU cities present a higher risk of poverty and social exclusion than their fellow sisters form South and East. At the same time, though, per-capita GDP is the highest in Western Europe, bringing about the urban paradox, indeed: rich, healthy and well-being people live just next to others that face considerable challenges in their everyday life.
It appears clear that cities truly represent the living bodies of EU. On one hand, they are the engine of progress, innovation, social development; on the other hand, there still are many challenges to be properly addressed. But they can make the difference.
The full Eurostat report
can be found here
, while here
is the chapter dedicated to cities.