Migration As a Chance for Rural Regions – an Austrian Example
The district of Hermagor is a rural, structurally lagging region in the southwest of the Austrian province Carinthia. It is very small, no more than about 18,500 people live there. Since the 1970s, Hermagor has constantly registered a strong population decrease, which is caused by two reasons: the strong out-migration (negative internal migrations balance) and the negative birth rates. The district is highly peripheral; it takes people up to 1.75 hours by car or up to 3.5 hours by public transport to reach the next centre. However, Hermagor can document a considerable positive international migration balance.
The transdisciplinary pilot-study, which was undertaken in this form for the first time in Austria, was carried out in cooperation with the district authority of Hermagor and is based on the district’s attempt to undertake steps to foster the integration process of the foreigners already living in Hermagor and to support the permanent settlement of international migrants in the region. The explorative, empirical-qualitative study aimed to examine why international migrants move to Hermagor and to explore the conditions and framework needed to foster permanent settlement. The investigation is based on:
In-depth analysis of secondary data (desk research on population, infrastructure, economic, and labour-market data),
semi-structured qualitative interviews with international migrants from different nations living in Hermagor.
Results and conclusion
The pilot-study shows the living conditions of international migrants in Hermagor, their need of support and integration infrastructure as well as the reasons for immigration in a rural region. Based on these results and taking the possibilities of political influence into consideration, a practical action plan was created which focuses on the migrant’s life cycle and comprises three pillars: a friendly welcome, supporting activities, and measures for an improved living together in the community. Currently, Hermagor takes actions for implementing the first pillar.