What are village problems

Life in the village: contentment, old residents, lots of commuters

A new report shows: Villages are not created equal. As some grow and get younger, others age and shrink.

Vienna. Almost half of Austrians live in the village. Even if that is quickly forgotten in Vienna, where politicians and decision-makers are at home: Around 40 percent of Austrians live in a community with fewer than 5,000 inhabitants. Overall, these places make up 88 percent of all municipalities in the state.

The first village life report (on behalf of the Adeg company, in cooperation with the association of local authorities) has now looked at how life in the village works. To this end, a market research institute (MindTake) interviewed 1,050 people online and orally - the results were interpreted by political scientist Peter Filzmaier, who, as coordinator of the Econet project, deals with rural development.

A lot can be read in the 50-page report, but above all that village life is not so easy to generalize. An overview.

• residents.
Not every place is affected by rural exodus. Kittsee in Burgenland, for example, has grown by 63 percent compared to 2002. Which has to do with the many Slovaks who moved to the town near the border. But also Mitterndorf a. d. Fischa, in Lower Austria, has 71 percent more residents, as does Rohrberg in Tyrol (51 percent). Iron ore in Styria, on the other hand, has shrunk the most since 2002 - by 33 percent.

Nor is it law for every place that young people migrate. In the communities of Sonntag and Fontanella in Vorarlberg, 43 and 42 percent of the residents are under 29 years old, respectively. In contrast, in Unterperfuss in Tyrol and Tschanigraben (Burgenland) 47 and 44 percent of the villagers are over 60 years old, respectively.

In principle, however, the rural exodus cannot be denied. In 2002 over 40 percent of 15 to 44 year olds lived in villages, now it is only around 35 percent. They also leave the place because of poor infrastructure, a lack of jobs, local supplies and training.

• Community.Nevertheless, country life is not unpopular. 90 percent perceive a high quality of life in their home town. Also because of the local community. However, it is not always publicly visible. 48 percent of those surveyed said they met with friends and acquaintances at home, 33 percent in a club, 29 percent in nature - and “only” 22 percent in a pub.

• Job. Those who live in the village have to be mobile. Around 72 percent of those surveyed have to commute to their workplace - compared to the rest of Austria, where it is only just under half. On the other hand, there are fewer unemployed in the village than in Austria as a whole (five to 7.6 percent), although on average the people there have lower educational qualifications (47 percent residents with an apprenticeship qualification in the village, 40 percent across Austria). The local supplier is seen as an important employer in spite of the dying out of business, but the requirements have grown: A merchant nowadays not only runs a business, he is usually “well rooted in the locality, and with services he makes a significant contribution to maintaining the infrastructure. For example with postal partnerships or home delivery, ”says Adeg CEO Alexandra Draxler-Zima.

• Societies. Around 85 percent of the villagers volunteer or are club members. "These services have to be paid for by the taxpayer in metropolitan areas," said the Association of Municipalities President Alfred Riedl. That too is a reason why village life should be promoted. Because rural life will not die out, says Peter Filzmaier. But it becomes expensive when places shrink or become obsolete.

In order for young people to stay in rural areas, a focus must be placed on women, emphasizes Filzmaier. Because young, educated women in particular are leaving the country: "The lack of attractiveness is also linked to the outdated image of women," he explains. Women in the federal states would have almost half less gross income than men. Not just because of maternity leave, but because they are paid less and work in professions with low earning potential, says Filzmaier. So that well-educated women do not emigrate, it is therefore also important to improve the compatibility of work and family - for example through better childcare.

Community leader Riedl again emphasizes that the rural area needs more educational facilities and the expansion of broadband internet so that the area remains competitive.

("Die Presse", print edition, October 24, 2017)