Topic: Changing forms of disadvantage and opportunities in transforming rural peripheries in the Czech Republic and Germany
Living in rural peripheries often aggravates existing social disadvantage. Structural weakness, manifested by lacking jobs, weak transport opportunities and hardly available services, multiply the difficulties experienced by households with scarce resources. At the same time, peripheries are often understood as stagnant and less dynamic environments. It has rarely been investigated, how the living conditions of the local population in general – and of socially disadvantaged groups more specifically – modify, if a peripheral rural region gains a new development impetus and undergoes profound transformations. Based on four cross-national case studies, our paper investigates the effects of such transformations on the opportunities of the local population and existing forms of disadvantage. Specifically, we ask, how new industrial investments and tourism expansion is reflected in local living conditions in peripheral rural regions. First results of our continuing interview-based research indicate that both forms of rural restructuring introduce significant and unbalanced modifications of existing regional opportunity structures. However, their effects on disadvantage cannot be interpreted unambiguously. Whereas economic and infrastructural developments create new forms of labour market opportunities and reduce poverty, newly emerging opportunities are not evenly accessible and attractive to all residents. Infrastructure and service development do not follow economic growth and population change. At the same time, these rapid changes introduce new forms of cleavages within the local population and alter the patterns of rural peripheralisation.
The paper is based on an ongoing comparative research project on social disadvantage in rural peripheries in the Czech Republic and eastern Germany. In the presentation we will also discuss and reflect upon cross-national similarities and differences.