Topic: On spatial injustices in different types of ruralities
Keywords: Spatial justice, centralisation, administrative reforms, rural capability, rural classification
Austerity policies have put rural areas under stress and further accelerated urbanization. Different factors, such as service availability, commuting possibilities, level of social capital and changing demography interact and reinforce each other. Here, different types of ruralities are having different experiences, since these factors vary in strength and composition. By using the concept of spatial justice, this paper wants to explore the injustices experienced in different kinds of ruralities in order to enhance the understanding of how this concept may be defined in rural areas and used to identify the factors and mechanisms that reproduce injustices. The planning of the Regional government, health and social services reform in Finland will be used for studying local and regional responses to the reform in the region of Ostrobothnia on the west coast of Finland. Three types of ruralities are defined, which are expected to have different prerequisites to respond to reforms threatening to centralise authority: 1) Local centres in rural areas are located far from regional growth centres and thereby need to be selfsufficient in most regards, 2) rural archipelago is peripheral in both a spatial and temporal sense, but often possess strong local identities and social capital, 3) urban areas on the fringe of commuting distance rely to some extent on regional centres but still need to maintain local jobs and services to stay attractive as places of residence. These different kinds of ruralities are investigated partly by conducting interviews
with local inhabitants and local and regional authorities, partly by using available statistics on for instance services availability, commuting, demography and employment. Results show that the different types of rural areas are having very different experiences of the reform and also very different capabilities to respond to it. Using spatial justice as a framework for analysis would therefore form an important tool for governments to estimate reform consequences.