Nuancing the commercial counterurbanisation debate: job creation and capacity building in an island setting

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The general trend in Denmark is for more and more people to move to urban areas. One reason is that job opportunities and possibilities for finding a well-paid job are demonstrably higher in larger labour markets within Denmark (Harmon 2013). Nevertheless, some people choose to settle in places with few available jobs, such as islands. International literature speak about such moves as signaling a ‘counterurbanisation trend’ (Grimsrud 2011; Stockdale 2016). Furthermore, some literature point to these counterurbanites as bringing new entrepreneurial spirit and economic development to rural areas, thus ‘rejuvenating them’ (Stockdale 2006) and contributing to local economic development and capacity building (Bosworth 2010; Bosworth and Bat Finke 2020). Taking my starting point in a small Danish island with 1800 inhabitants, I address the question of who creates jobs and capacity building in the island, and use the evidence to critically engage with the counterurbanisation literature. I argue that the literature tends to fall into four traps: 1) equating ex-urbanites’ arrival with job-creation and innovation; 2) overlooking locals’ endogenous job-creation and capacity building; 3) overlooking important contributions by ‘lateral movers’; and 4) overestimating the attraction of ‘rural idyll’ as stand-alone factor.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-18
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of rural studies
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022


  • island communities
  • rural development
  • job creation
  • lateral rural migration
  • counterurbanisation


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