Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Shrinkage and ageing are Europe-wide challenges

29.04.2008
Unlike in Eastern Germany, shrinking numbers of city dwellers in the Czech Republic and Poland did not so far lead to massive numbers of unoccupied properties and demolitions. In East Central Europe, there are other reasons for the presence of empty apartments, e. g. the bad state of repair.

These are the findings of a research project conducted by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), which compares population development in the cities of Brno and Ostrava in the Czech Republic and Gdansk and Lódz in Poland with Leipzig in Eastern Germany.

The researchers found that empty properties in Poland and the Czech Republic were not the result of an oversupply of housing, but rather the result of a real need for redevelopment in districts with old building stock. Since many tenants are not registered or flats are illegally sublet, the official statistics often do not reflect the reality, according to the researchers. At the same time, however, there are some parallels with Germany.

Most importantly, the ageing population needs to be mentioned. This is a topic for both cities and whole countries. In all cities under investigation, the proportion between the younger and the elderly population in recent years changed decisively in favour of the elderly. This has consequences on urban planning and housing policies: flats need to be adapted to the requirements of elderly people, infrastructure demand changes.

From 14 to 16 April, 130 scientists from 15 countries were discussing the impacts of demographic change on European cities at an international conference at the UFZ in Leipzig. Population developments always have impacts on the environment: empty apartments are heated alongside occupied ones, plots of land are not desealed after a demolition. Public transport becomes less efficient in a city with declining residential density. Therefore, declining populations not necessarily result in less environmental impact.

Lódz has lost more than 81,000 inhabitants since the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe. That is more than one in ten inhabitants for this Polish city. In comparable Czech cities the situation is not that grave but also there the number of inhabitants decreased for quite some years in the 1990s. Ostrava and Brno, for example, have each lost seven per cent of their inhabitants. But there are also some causes that vary widely from one country to another. Whereas in the Polish cities the population is moving to the capital or abroad, Czech city-dwellers tend to move to privately owned homes in the suburbs. This ‘suburbanisation’ is playing a major role in the Czech Republic, as it did in Eastern Germany in the 1990s. It is less significant in Poland, however. The population decreases are just the beginning: since the birth rates in the formerly socialist countries of Eastern Europe are among the lowest in the world, the forecasts are alarming. Poland’s Central Statistical Office estimates that populations in the larger cities alone will fall by between 20 and 30 per cent by 2030.

Changes are taking place in the inner cities as well: in all four of the cities studied the inner-city residential areas have seen significant population decreases between the 1991 and 2001 censuses, as well as already in the decades before. Whereas the total population in Lódz fell by around 10 per cent, the decline in the inner city was as high as 20 per cent, according to official statistics. However, the social scientists believe that these figures should be treated with caution, since inner cities often attract younger people who do not register with the authorities or live as subtenants on a black rental market. In Brno for instance, according to the census the inner-city population supposedly has a higher average age than that of the city as a whole. “But our qualitative studies in Brno showed a significant reduction in the average age of the inner-city population, which was often not reflected in the local register or in the censuses,” the researchers write in their interim report.

However, a general trend can be observed in Poland and the Czech Republic: the number of one-person households is increasing. They now account for between 30 and 35 per cent, and for as many as 40 per cent of households in the inner cities. The proportion of single parents has also increased. By contrast, the proportion of households with more than three people, i.e. the classic family, has fallen steeply since 1990.

After 1989, state-owned housing stock in Poland and the Czech Republic was transferred to the local authorities and gradually privatised. Unlike the prefabricated concrete constructions of the post-war era, however, large numbers of old apartment buildings in the inner cities still belong to the local authorities and are viewed by their long-term tenants, many of whom are living alone in large flats, almost as their own property. By contrast, young families are often unable to find suitable housing, which aggravates the housing shortage. In addition, all four of the cities studied have up-and-coming areas with high-income inhabitants and areas with concentrations of low-income inhabitants.

Demographic change and its consequences for urban development are a Europe-wide phenomenon. In the long term, this phenomenon will have similar consequences for housing market demand and infrastructure utilisation in East Central Europe to those currently being observed in other parts of Europe. The problems facing Eastern Germany today therefore sound a warning for Poland and the Czech Republic over the coming decades, where similar developments are expected in places. Cities need to provide quality of live to an ever ageing, in some places declining population. The experiences made in East Germany might be of interest to our neighbours. At the same time, however, local authorities in Eastern Germany have something to learn from their eastern neighbours. For instance, the greater autonomy enjoyed by the districts in Czech cities is having a positive impact on their development.

The research project ‘Social and spatial consequences of demographic change in East Central European cities’ is part of the funding initiative ‘Unity amidst variety? Intellectual foundations and requirements for an enlarged Europe’ of the Volkswagen Foundation. Using Czech and Polish cities as a basis, the project will study which experiences from the new states of Eastern Germany are transferable and where there are national differences. The Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig-Halle (UFZ) is working closely with the Czech and Polish Academy of Sciences, the University of Gdansk and the University of London.

Tilo Arnhold | alfa
Further information:
http://www.ufz.de/index.php?en=16581

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Fixating on faces
26.01.2017 | California Institute of Technology

nachricht Internet use in class tied to lower test scores
16.12.2016 | Michigan State University

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA's Fermi catches gamma-ray flashes from tropical storms

25.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers invent process to make sustainable rubber, plastics

25.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Transfecting cells gently – the LZH presents a GNOME prototype at the Labvolution 2017

25.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>