Boosting Europe's recovery: how different are the needs and challenges the European regions and cities are facing after the pandemic?

Looking into the future based on ESPON territorial evidence:

Digitalization and new technologies are powerful drivers of innovation and growth. They offer competitive jobs for highly skilled employees and new growth opportunities for cities and regions. But at the same time they are creating new territorial inequalities among places and social inequalities among workers. The demand for specialised and highly skilled labour, for example in ICT and engineering, is increasing rapidly and employers are ready to offer substantial benefits to attract it.

At the same time cognitive and manual jobs suffer increased displacement and losses-especially in Eastern Europe.

Map: Regional job creat ion and job displacement by skill level, 2013-2018

Transformation of the economy leads to a new competition among places. Those with advanced ICT infrastructure and friendly business environment are able to offer Knowledge-Economy companies the services they need to host their specialised staff and benefit from this high-income migration. COVID-19 accelerated the need for such infrastructure due to the demand for teleworking and online services and increased further the gap among advanced KE places and places lagging behind.

Map: Technology and knowledge workers (2020)

# ESPONterritorial evidence

But KE workers are looking for something more than just a well paid job. They are interested about their living environment and the quality of life in the areas they reside. Population growth in some cities creates pressure events at the suburbs. COVID-19 increased further this trend. This has a direct impact on housing prices and increases social inequalities, especially against those depending on affordable housing.

Map: Development of urban use areas in relation to population development 2000-2018

In the quest for a better living environment green urban areas are the most demanded ones. From digital nomads to families and from elders to young individuals, they all seek for places that combine urban infrastructure and services with green spaces surrounding their working and living areas.

Easy access to green infrastructure offers a wide range of recreational activities better environmental conditions and healthy living

Map: Percentage cover of urban green areas inside the Core Cit y (CC)

# ESPONterritorial evidence

To address all these challenges and prepare for extreme situations, like those COVID-19 created, cities and regions should become more agile and resilient. They need to adopt a more proactive approach and take measures at the local and regional level to support their citizens and the local economies. During the pandemic, the places that performed best were those that adjusted quickly to the reality, adapted their services and filled the gaps the national governments could not.

Map: First policy answers - measures on support to vulnerable populations

At the same time, cities and regions need to work together on issues that overcome their capacities or where they can achieve better results on a larger scale. Issues like interoperability of eHealth solutions have been increasingly developed within and across borders in Europe. The COVID-19 crisis boosted further these efforts and led to a new mindset of networking and cooperation in healthcare that can work as the new normal for other areas in the future.

Map: EU funded projects implementing Pre-Commercial Procurement s (PCP) or Public Procurement of Innovative Solutions (PPI) in healthcare sector

This article appears in the EURegionsWeek 2021 Issue of TerritoriALL

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This article appears in the EURegionsWeek 2021 Issue of TerritoriALL