NIBR at the 3rd Nordic Conference for Rural Research 8 – 10 September 2014

By Aadne Aasland, senior researcher, NIBR International Department

NIBR was well represented at the third biannual Nordic Conference for Rural Research. This year Trondheim was the venue of this cross-disciplinary event, dealing with social challenges and policy issues that are currently confronting Nordic rural areas.

The Munkholmen islet in the Trondheimsfjord. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

One of the topics that were high up on the agenda at this year’s conference was immigration to Nordic rural districts. In a key-note speech Susanna Stenbacka from the University of Uppsala used data from the NIBR-coordinated project “The Multiethnic Rural Community – Inclusion or Exclusion of Immigrants?” to discuss how resilience can be sustained in rural areas through international migration. She accounted for both individual strategies among refugees that she had interviewed in Swedish rural areas, and also community strategies for making use of the resources that refugees bring into the community.

Photo: Odd Roger Langørgen, Centre for Rural Research, Trondheim

NIBR researchers Susanne Søholt and Aadne Aasland chaired a working group at the conference with eight prepared papers on the impact of international migration on rural welfare and local development. The papers in the working group reflected the large number of angles that this phenomenon is studied from. It included papers with basis in a variety of disciplines (sociology, political science, geography, anthropology, business studies) and with very different methodological approaches. The papers brought in perspectives ranging from the immigrants’ bodies, via the households to the local communities, national policies and impact of global phenomena.

Four papers by NIBR researchers were presented in this working group. Guri Mette Vestbylooked at variations in place knowledge and place attachment among different types of newcomers in Norwegian rural districts. She stressed that if the municipality wants newcomers to settle, such differences need to be taken into account.

Photo: Odd Roger Langørgen, Centre for Rural Research, Trondheim

Aadne Aasland and Susanne Søholt gave a paper on immigrant segregation and neighbourhood hierarchies in three rural municipalities of Norway using register data and GIS analysis to reveal settlement patterns at local level. Immigrant segregation is rather low, and immigrants appear no less likely than native Norwegians to settle in neighbourhoods reflecting their own socio-economic status.

Kristian Tronstad used register data and statistical analysis to illuminate settlement patterns among Norway’s new immigrants. He found quite different patterns in Norway compared to what has previously been found in Sweden with more emphasis on employment opportunities and less on quality of life and marriage migration.

Photo: Odd Roger Langørgen, Centre for Rural Research, Trondheim

Ottar Brox gave a presentation arguing that immigration to rural areas, which is commonly referred to as a “rural rescue” preventing depopulation in the districts, in reality implies a number of negative effects on the wage structure and work environment with increasing class divisions as a result.

The working group was well attended with more than 30 participants from all Nordic countries. The majority of the papers dealt with immigration to rural Norway. This might be a result of the topic being larger and higher up on the policy agenda in Norway than in the other Nordic countries.

The social programme consisted in a sightseeing and dinner at the island of Munkholmen. In two years the 4th Nordic Conference for Rural Research will be organised in Akureyri, Iceland.

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