While countries like China are encouraging increased urbanisation, some countries are instead seeing more youth return to a more traditional family life in the country.  Their reasons are predominantly economic; there just aren’t enough jobs in the cities so life is better with family in the country.  However, a positive by-product of the trend is the maintenance of culture and more traditional family values among the young.  It might also mean there are more children around to help look after elderly parents as state pension systems fail.

European leaders have sought out various ways to help out their youth as the financial crash caused soaring unemployment rates for 15- to 24-year-olds.  One demographer is suggesting that Croatia concentrate on further farming initiatives for its youth, as the country struggles to provide jobs.  Demographer Stjepan Šterc, assistant professor at the Faculty of Science in Zagreb writes:

“Among other things, why would we not encourage young, urban population without jobs to develop activities in rural areas? When our young people go abroad, they accept all sorts of jobs, including on farms. Why couldn’t we establish programmes which will bring young people from the cities to the countryside? We should also involve Croatian diaspora, which should get incentives to return to Croatia with their businesses”

In Croatia, for each employee there is one pensioner or unemployed person, not counting children and university students, meaning that the country will soon struggle to pay pensioners. Sterc warns that the current health and pension systems will become unsustainable within five years, as Croatia will have soon have too few young people able to “earn” pensions for others and provide healthcare for elderly.  Currently 10,000 people more people leave the workforce each year than enter it:

“Demographic issues are a cornerstone of the economy, and that is something that our politicians understand very well, but are not doing anything about it. It is impossible to increase the birth rate just by calling on patriotism or national consciousness. It is a process which the state must pay for – it must provide people with jobs which will enable them to have a nice, normal life, or take more money from those who do not have children.”

Earlier this year Romanian Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos also launched a program to revive the country’s villages, with most of the money to be spent on helping young farmers and small entrepreneurs. He commented that:

“Developing the middle class in rural areas should be one of our objectives for the coming period; a middle class with real skills of entrepreneurship, beginning with agriculture and the agri-food sector… to constitute a viable and lasting resource for local development,”

A return to farming and a more self-sufficient way of life is one answer for youth with some positive life and family benefits as well.  There is a worldwide trend towards eco-villages, sustainable ways of living and developing more community.  Perhaps people are just re-discovering what was the norm in the past.

Shannon Roberts

Shannon Roberts is co-editor of MercatorNet's blog on population issues, Demography is Destiny. While she has a background as a barrister, writing has been a life-long passion and she has contributed...