We are becoming more urban. An increasing number of people prefer to live in urban areas. This drives changes in housing construction, infrastructure and the power grid. But what is the reason for the urbanisation trend, and what will happen in the future?
In the last decades, centralisation in Norway has resulted in strong population growth in the biggest cities mainly caused by migration from rural areas to the big cities. This pattern has changed somewhat, with slightly fewer people migrating from rural areas to cities. However, our cities are still growing. The reason is logical: In the past, most children grew up in the countryside and moved to the cities when they grew up. Now, more children grow up in the cities, and stay there. Hence, the cities keep growing. In other words, it is not incidental that the underground is becoming more crowded and traffic jams are getting worse.
“The pattern over many years has been that young people live in urban areas and older people frequently in rural areas. When the young reach their 30s, they often move back to where they grew up. But when an increasing number of children grow up in the cities, they remain in the cities – or its surrounding areas,” explains Kjetil Sørlie, researcher at the Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research (NIBR).
Sørlie is certain that the centralisation in and around the cities will continue.
“Many people move to the areas surrounding the big cities of Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim and Stavanger. Presuming that the economic upturn continues, we will see many young people growing up in the cities moving to neighbouring municipalities when they settle down. This results in population growth in the areas surrounding the cities, which means that the cities continue to grow,” he says. About 60 per cent of people who move to a big city, move out again before they reach their 40s. Of these, almost half settle in surrounding areas.
The impending “youth wave”
High birth rates in certain years create population growth waves. We are now expecting what is frequently referred to as an “age wave”. This is a result of a high birth rate during the period 1945 - 1970. However, what many people do not know is that we will also see a “youth wave”.
“The generation that will be between 25 and 35 in the next decade will be 20 per cent larger than the current generation of that age. As many of these young people live in cities already, urban areas will grow more than rural areas. This means that the “youth wave” will mainly be a city phenomenon,” Sørlie points out.
Moving is determined by people’s situation and stage of life. Many people still move from rural areas into the cities. However, labour immigration has affected the traditional moving pattern to a certain extent, and this is likely to continue according to Sørlie.
“If immigrants cannot find work in the cities, they will move to more rural areas. Hence, there is a small potential for less centralisation, but this is not likely to make up for the fact that the population is becoming increasingly more urban.”
The impact of immigration
In the 1970s, lower birth rates resulted in a reduction of the Norwegian population. An increase in immigration has, however, resulted in a strong increase in this particular age group. The smallest age groups, born between 1975 and 1985, have grown by 25 to 30 per cent on a national basis as a result of immigration. The year groups that are now in their 40s and 50s have grown by 15 to 20 per cent. In 2013, Norway received fewer immigrants than the year before, and Sørlie believes that this trend will continue.
“The question now is what will affect the trend in the next decade? Will there be an influx of external immigrants? Or will our own labour needs be covered by domestic growth?” Sørlie asks.
Among 40-year-olds in Norway, about half live in the same municipality they grew up in. 60 per cent of people who moved from the districts to the city when they were young, moved out of the city before they turned 40. Of those aged 50+, about 85 per cent have lived in the same municipality their whole lives.
(Source: Statistics Norway)
About 12 per cent of Norway’s population live in municipalities more than a 45-minute commute from a town centre of at least 5 000 inhabitants. For these 200 municipalities, the generation size is reduced by 30 per cent due to people moving when they are between 15 and 40. Labour immigration has curtailed this reduction by between three and four per cent in recent years.
Statistics Norway anticipates that Norway will have six million inhabitants by 2029, seven by 2063 and 7.9 by 2100.
The Norwegian population is projected to increase in all counties moving towards 2040. According to Statistics Norway, the strongest growth will take place in Oslo, Akershus and Rogaland Counties. The population in Oslo is projected to grow from 613 000 people in 2012 to 832 000 people in 2040.
Text: Inger Lise Welhaven Photo: Bo Mathisen