Abstract – Elis

Rural Shrinking in Japan and Germany: Similarities, Dissimilarities and Lessons to Learn

Volker ELIS (University of Cologne)

Internationally comparative research on rural shrinking is still in its infancy, which is a surprising fact, as demographic and economic decline is beginning to affect the non-urban regions of an ever increasing number of developed states. This paper starts with the findings of the first comprehensive treatise comparing the current situation in shrinking municipalities in two different countries (WIRTH et al. 2006) to suggest what decision-makers and actors in Germany and Japan can learn from each other with regard to policies and coping strategies tackling the effect of an aging and decreasing population and economic structural change. The paper argues that the phenomenon of rural shrinking is comparable between countries on an international scale regardless of cultural differences and differences in the spatial and administrative structure.

The first part of this paper consists of an introduction into the principal regional policy approaches on the national level to cope with the effects of demographic change including neoliberal austerity policy, the demand-orientated Keynesian approach, endogenous development measures, and alternative concepts focusing on deceleration and well-being beyond the dominant growth paradigm. In the second part the question is discussed why some strategies are successfully applied on the regional and local level in one country while they failed or were not even considered in the other. The presentation ends with some thoughts on how the prevalent discourses have an impact on the choice of regional development tools in the two countries.