In the European Union, the capital metro regions in Central and Eastern Member States tend to have a far higher productivity than the other metro regions in those countries and the rest of the country. This productivity gap can also be found in Western EU Member States, but there it is far smaller and tends to shrink over time. Since 2000, the productivity gap between the capital metro region and the rest of the country in the Central and Eastern Member States has been growing rapidly.
This paper seeks to explain this opposing trend in East and West by exploring the differences in share of tertiary educated and access to flights and services. In most Central and Eastern Member States, the tertiary educated are highly concentrated in the capital. Also access to flights tends to be far lower outside the capital due to an underdeveloped road network and a fairly low number of flights in most regional airports. Access to services, such as education, health care and financial services, is more problematic in most Central and Eastern Member States, especially in the thinly populated areas.
These differences have an impact on migration flows. Whereas, rural regions in Western Member States have a strong positive net migration saldo, the rural regions in Central and Eastern Member States are negative. The capital metro regions in these Central and Eastern countries still have a positive net migration saldo.
The paper concludes that to respond to the growing productivity gap in Central and Eastern Member States, investments in access to services and digital, health, education and transport infrastructure outside the capital metro region will need to become a higher priority. Finally, it speculates on how the crisis may have influenced these trends.
Keywords: Metropolitan regions; Geography of growth; Migration
Biography: Lewis Dijkstra is the Deputy Head of Unit of the Analysis Unit in DG for Regional Policy of the European Commission. He is responsible for the Cohesion and Progress Reports, including the fifth Cohesion Report published in November 2010. He is the author of several papers on regional and urban social and economic trends. He holds a PhD in Urban and Regional Planning from Rutgers University.