We need new and more specific rural data to better understand rural diversity, provide evidence for policy making on rural areas, implement rural proofing, evaluate the impact of EU legislative initiatives and track progress towards the shared goals.
The new rural observatory, improved rural statistics and a definition of functional rural areas contribute to this need.
The rural observatory
The rural observatory aims at centralising and analysing data, ensuring a bridge between data sources through a rural data portal, informing on relevant EU initiatives for rural areas and analysing the achievements of the EU Rural Action Plan. The rural observatory supports knowledge production and aims at disseminating data related to EU rural areas. It offers relevant statistics, indicators and analyses based on data from multiple sources and at the most appropriate territorial level, covering economic, social and environmental dimensions.
Improving rural statistics
The Commission works to reinforce statistical data collection and provision in rural areas. It has published on 17 January 2023 a new “Statistics explained” chapter on rural Europe.
New detailed data from the 2021 round of population and housing censuses
EU Member States are currently implementing the 2021 population and housing censuses. These censuses provide very rich data, down to the level of local administrative units, and allow to publish new information on rural areas that is not available within annual demographic statistics.
The 2021 round of population and housing censuses will provide by mid- 2023 detailed regional information, including a collection of georeferenced population data at 1 km square gridfrom all Member States.
Find more about population & housing census.
Increasing the availability and quality of official statistics on rural areas
The Commission has adopted on 20 January its proposal for a new framework regulation on European statistics on population which integrates census, demography and migration statistics. The proposal extends the data requirements towards their geographical detail to enhance the scope of statistics relevant to rural areas. It was open for feedback between 22 January and 19 March 2023.
The Commission is also discussing with Member States data needs on rural areas.
Developing pan-European geospatial datasets
The European Commission works to establish a harmonised approach to the use of Geospatial Information Systems, developing pan-European geospatial datasets. The Commission:
- has published experimental geocoded datasets on health care services and education facilities, as a pilot exercise to explore accessibility analysis to core services that are needed every day.
- is working on a more complete geospatial core data sets infrastructure including administrative units, addresses, buildings, parcels, transport networks and population distribution.
- is working to improve the geospatial definition of the LAUs and NUTS based on the upcoming CENSUS 2021 results.
Mainstreaming the degree of urbanisation
The Commission works to increase the number of indicators that are available by “degree of urbanisation”, which is the typology providing the finest differentiation between urban, semi-dense and rural areas. Over 200 indicators are now available.
Functional Rural Areas
The commission is working to build a definition of functional rural areas that will make it easier to compare data between countries with very different municipality sizes and will enable new types of analysis, in particular on access to services.
The approach has been first presented at the Rural pact conference 2022 session “What evidence for better rural policies” (video – presentations).
Rural research projects
Two Horizon Europe funded projects will work on improving rural data and evidence:
GRANULAR - Giving Rural Actors Novel data and re-Useable tools to Lead public Action in Rural areas
GRANULAR will generate:
- new insights to characterise rural diversity using multi-actor and interdisciplinary approaches;
- novel datasets based on insights from multi-actor labs and using a wide range of methods and primary data, such as remote sensing, crowd-sourced data, mobile phone data and web-scraping;
- indicators relevant to rural communities for the implementation of the rural vision, using these novel data sets and existing institutional data.
RUSTIK - Rural Sustainability Transitions through Integration of Knowledge for improved policy processes
RUSTIK aims to provide:
- a robust methodological framework for functional rural areas
- databases integrating data of different types and sources
- improved strategies and governance approaches for rural decision makers and stakeholders
- improved approaches for rural impact assessment and decentralised rural proofing.
The European spatial planning observatory network (ESPON) funds research projects and targeted analysis dedicated to territorial analysis. It has a specific stream of work on rural development.
Key facts by topic
Rural areas in numbers
Key statistics for EU rural areas today, with figures relating to demographics, economic development, social inclusion and environmental sustainability.
EUROSTAT territorial typologies and related databases:
Data on specific themes or sectors:
Agriculture and agrifood
- Rural in digital index (European Digital scoreboard)
- Rural Digital Europe Dashboard of the Horizon 2020 Desira project (desira2020.eu)
Horizon funded research on rural and social dynamics:
OECD work on rural development
- OECD Rural development and rural well-being
- World Observatory on Subnational Government Finance and Investment
International Labour Organization tools on decent work in the rural economy
- Rural Economy webpage
- Policy Brief Advancing social justice and decent work in rural economies
- ILO & ITC MOOC on Future of Work in the Rural Economy