After years of population decline, many rural communities now host schools with more teachers than students. Declining fertility rates, low rates of immigration and population ageing have put pressure on local services, pushing up costs per head in facilities with very few users and in some cases forcing closures. Can governments continue to provide services efficiently to people regardless of where they live?
In the early stages of the pandemic, the focus was squarely on cities. Urban density and shared spaces contributed to surging case numbers and deaths: before June, the rise in excess deaths was more than three times higher in large metropolitan areas compared to remote regions. But rural areas still reeled from the economic impacts. Businesses closed to comply with containment measures, trade slowed, and tourism activity all but ceased.