Demographic and socio-economic characteristics of the population from a regional and urban-rural gradient perspective 

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Pre-1989 shifts in economic orientation, policies and their repercussions on regional  development

Illner and Andrle (1994) articulate some of the main features of the communist heritage of regional development as follows:
1. After World War II the Czech lands, a relatively little damaged and, at the same time, highly industrialised region, were a provider of goods and services for the post-war reconstruction and modernisation of the more damaged and backward Slovakia as well as of the USSR and other Soviet block trading area countries (CMEA4). A massive redistribution of resources took place in Slovakia’s favour, while at the same time the renewal of capital assets in the Czech lands lagged behind. In the long run, levels of economic and social development of the two parts of Czechoslovakia converged.
2. The regional policy of the socialist state, which practised a directed inter-regional equalisation (based on the territorial redistribution of resources), moderated some of the deepest economic and social regional differences and imbalances within the Czech lands, while leaving some of them unchanged and creating several new ones.
The long-lasting division of the Czech Republic along approximately the 50th parallel (more precisely, along a north-west to south-east axis), into the more industrial and urbanised north and the less developed south has not disappeared, nor has the strong centrality of the capital city of Prague been balanced. The existing industrial centres remained engines of economic development; indeed their role was strengthened. „Socialist“ industrialisation, oriented mostly towa rd heavy, defence and capital construction-oriented industries, supported and strengthened the monostructural character of many industrial agglomerations, making them extremely vulnerable to shifting external influences and creating a host of social problems, especially in northwest Bohemia and north Moravia (Kostelecký 199 3). However, the most relevant of the newly emerging imbalances was the marginalisation of the regions along the West German and Austrian borders following the expulsion of the frontier belt’s German population in the years immediately after the close of World War II. The loss of its original population, its insufficient (in many districts) replacement by new settlers, its special military and security regime, the disruption of former trans-border routes and relationships, the strategic interest of the Warsaw Pact military in freezing economic development along the „Iron Curtain“, all led to th e overall marginalisation and stagnation of some of the border regions, especially in west, south-west and south Bohemia, and south Moravia (Hampl, Kühnl 1993). Som e of the regions in north Bohemia and north Moravia neighbouring with East Germany or Poland shared a similar fate. Besides the marginalised border regions, „inn er peripheries“ also developed, mostly among the inland agricultural areas with low population densities, ageing population, negative net migration, low per capita incomes, stagnating infrastructures and housing construction (Musil 1988). Such peripheries lie mostly on the perimeter of the administrative regions, e.g. on the north-east reaches of Central Bohemia or on the eastern side of the Brno area.
3. An obsolete industrial infrastructure, a one-sided concentration on heavy industry and negligence contributed to harsh environmental damage in some industrial agglomerations and urban centres as well as in their hinterlands (north and north-west Bohemia, north Moravia and the cities of Prague, Brno and Plzeň being the worst hit).
4. Full employment was imposed by the law and non-working was a crime. Officially, there was no uneployment during the communism. It concerned both men and women (except for those on the maternity leave). Before 1989 the economic activity of Czech women was the highest in Europe (Hraba et al. 1997). This situation led inevitably to the existence of redundant jobs and workers. Work efficiency as well as work motivation was low. Moreover the wages were not based on meritocratic basis and the equalisation of salaries was the goal of the systrem (Večerník 1996).
5. The collectivisation of agriculture, which liquidated family farming and established increasingly large state farms and agricultural co-operatives, fundamentally changed employment structure and land use in rural areas (Majerová 2000). Workers freed from colectivized agriculture converted into industrial workers commuting to the plants and factories or moving to the towns. The collectivisation also contributed to the change in the settlement system. Many small rural settlements which did not find any function within the large-scale socialised agriculture lost permanent residents and were transformed into recreational villages. In some place, like in the border regions resettled after the World War II, the big state farming companies, although heavilly subsidized helped to retain and stabilize the population. From the 1970s onwards a recreational housing hobby flourished among Czechs. Thanks to that a part of traditional rural architectural heritage was saved, even though the “ popular creativity” often had destructive effects.


It is evident from the examples of changing spatial patterns of population redistribution in Russia, Hungary, Poland and Romania, that although these processes are motivated by economic factors, they do not result in qualitatively similar movements as in the “long-term” democratic countries. The major task of my th esis will be to describe the spatial population dynamics in the Czech Republic and discuss to what extent it follows the logic of agglomeration and counterurbanisation observed in Western European countries and whose origins can be explained by theories of New Economic Geography and theories of organisation of urban systems. If the pattern is different, we will then need to examine whether this represents the result of a specific Czech constellation of path dependency, regulation, geographical arrangements, etc. or if it may be a general pattern, that of a society morphing from a centrally planned economy and regime of regional development to one which is less or better regulated by other means.
These rather general concerns about the logic of spatial population organisation are conditioned by a detailed analysis of population migratory movements, demographic structure and socio-economic characteristics, as well as their evolution over time. A general remark concerning the mobility of the Czech population formulated by Dostál and Hampl (2004) already indicates that the situation in the Czech Republic may represent a different pattern or a modification of the situation observed in Western Europe and other developed countries. Dostál and Hampl state that:
“Despite the new circumstances and conditions of th e post-communist transformation and the clear regional differences in the localisation of resources and job opportunities, there did not take place an increase in interregional migration, but a decrease of migration flows. An important factor explaining the decreased migration intensity is the strong inertia of the Czech welfare state provisions and some consequences of the former equalising tendencies (so-called ‘nivelisation’). A specific factor has been the impact of housing policies of the central government orientated to the abolition of subsidies for house building, but maintaining highly regulated housing rents. In consequence, a combined result of these policies has been the decreasing geographical mobility of labour force. From the geographical viewpoint, this is one of the main deficiencies of the post-communist transformation in the Czech Republic. Only in the case of suburbanisation processes one can establish a beginning of ‘natural‘ tendencies in this respect…“ (Dostál, Hampl, 2004, p. 16)
This claim in a sense encourages further research because it mentions the emerging pattern of suburbanisation which has not been followed by further “natural” moves. The issue which arises is to explain the reasons for this and demonstrate how this emerging tendency evolved over time. The existence of such new patterns in population dynamics, if observed, has repercussions on population structure. In that case, we could speak of new modes of spatial population dynamics in the post-transformation Czech Republic.

Existing approaches in the Czech Republic

The need to distinguish urban zones from rural ones arises for a variety of researchers and policy makers, but also architects or ethnologists. Thus, there is not and cannot be one single definition of what is urban and what is rural. For the needs of the present thesis, we must look for a quantitative definition, as it should categorise localities in the whole country. The definition of the categories should be based primarily on population characteristics, as the focal point here is spatial population dynamics. Secondly, economic indicators need to be taken into account as well, as spatial population dynamics is largely determined by the economic characteristics of localities, the distance to an important employment (urban centre) and commuting accessibility and intensity (for more details see Chapter 1). Commuting intensity and especially work commuting is an important proxy for assessment of functional connection and dependence of municipalities and their inhabitants on other larger and economically stronger (urban) centres. The definition used in my thesis can therefore be categorised as belonging to the group of quantitative, statistical-economic commuting based approach.
Although the study of the spatial differentiation of urban and rural populations in the Czech Republic is a subject of long-lasting concern for sociologists (University of Life Sciences), social geographers (Charles University) and spatial planning and developmental policy makers, it suffers from a lack of consensus on an appropriate definition enabling the study of general trends in the settlement and population transformation from an urban-rural perspective. Binary-size classifications are most commonly used to define urban and rural areas in the Czech context. Municipalities of more than 2000 inhabitants are considered as urban and those of less than 2000 as rural. This definition is used in the research of the Institute of Agricultural Economics and Information (ÚZEI) or in the Sociological laborator y at University of Life Sciences. But even these institutions do not use this binary definition alone, and they are searching for alternatives (Perlín 2003b, Maříková 2005, Pavlík 2005).Certain inconsistencies may arise in the approaches adopted in research projects and very often choices are neither explained nor justified sufficiently. For instance, research on the rural population conducted by the research team of Věra Majerová in 2001 (Majerová 2001) involved the populations in municipalities numbering less than 2000 inhabitants with no further justification of this measure (Majerová 2001, p. 12in the English online version). Moreover, this approach is inconsistent with the typology adopted in the previous chapter of the same text, where the density of population in the studied municipalities is the essential element (Majerová 2001, p. 8 in the English online version). Another example of this problematic is the use of the term rural areas for the purpose of policy strategy elaborated by the Programme of rural development in the Czech Republic for the period 2004-2006 and for the following period 2007-2013. There, a clear definition of a rural area is not given at all (further discussion of the consequences of this in Vobecká 2009b). Radim Perlín remarks that authors concerned with recent rural development and rural municipalities in the Czech context do not discuss the question of the definition of rural municipalities, but instead concentrate on their derived characteristics, such as social problems and participation, architectural and urban structure, sustainable development and ecology or socio-economic living conditions in the rural areas (Perlín 2003, p. 3). Perlin himself is interested in rural settlement structure, and defined rural areas on the basis of a multicriterial analysis, taking into account a complex network of historical, social, economic and geographical criteria. The resulting definition distinguishes six types of rural areas: suburban areas, rural in the rich agricultural areas, rich Sudeten, poor Sudeten, inner peripheries and the Moravian-Slovak borderland (Perlín, 1999, 2003a). The distinction of rich and poor Sudetten in this typology had an undubiously important historical foundation. However today, more than a half a century after the resettlement of these former German settlement areas by new inhabitants from the Czechoslovak in-land, distinction on the historical basis is not so relevant for the studies of social and demographic structures and economic differentiation. Analysis of social-economic differences and social mobility based on Perlín´s typology fails to reveal any significant differences between the types (Tuček 2003). Elsewhere, Perlín comes to the conclusion that the most suitable approach to the study of rural areas in the Czech context is, finally, the approach based on population count in the municipalities. He suggests that the breaking point between 2000 and 3000 inhabitants is suitable. Furthermore, he proves that administratively defined towns match closely with those municipalities numbering more than 2500 inhabitants. For Perlín, multicriterial classifications of the rural or urban character of municipalities are only applicable on the micro-level of observation (Perlín 2003b, p. 14).
It has often been the concern of the Czech Statistical Office to come up with new definitions of urban and rural areas. Before each population census since 1960, the categories of urban and rural areas have been revised. Commonly, the units used to define them have been municipalities. In 1961, a classification was created dividing municipalities into five distinct categories according to a complex of criteria (e.g. proportion of population employed in agriculture, urban attributes, presence of higher service facilities).7 The resulting division consisted of five categories: regional and departmental towns, other towns, small towns, agglomerated municipalities and rural municipalities.8 The first four categories were counted as urban and included 457 towns. A very similar classification was used in the population census of 1970, although the definition of respective categories was considerably changed. 602 municipalities were defined as towns. For the 1980 census, a new classification was established which stressed the departmental importance of municipalities. According to its calculations, 345 municipalities were considered as towns. A similar classification was used in the census of 1991 when 348 towns were thus defined (Rozmístění a koncentrace… 2004).
The criteria have changed from one census to another, making comparaison difficult. For the occasion of the latest census in 2001, no such definition was established. The Czech Statistical Office now uses a very simple definition of rural areas. Rural areas consist of municipalities which do not have the status of a town. Town status is politically and historically determined and is not related to any socio-geographic limitation9. At the same time, data sorted by the population size of the municipalities are also published, thus making the binary classification based analysis possible. The Czech Statistical Office considers the present urban-rural classification as insufficient and is searching for a new one. A large variety of alternative classifications is being considered for the analysis of population dynamics, socio-economic characteristics and land use. The proposed variants range from the simple ones based on population size to those involving multiple criteria combining number of inhabitants, density of built-up areas or distance from regional centres. A public debate was initiated in 2008 in the aim of finding the best fitting definition.

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Core-periphery regional approach in the Czech Republic

Another approach to assessing the agglomeration power of an urban core is via the establishment of hierarchical settlement systems. Hierarchically higher settlement units have more intense agglomeration power and serve as superior centres of economic activities and services for units lower in the hierarchy. Again, we can study this hierarchy on different scales: global, national, local… Here, we will focus on the national level in compliance with the scale of study adopted in this thesis. A systematic study of settlement hierarchy, its theory and concrete manifestation in the Czech Republic is provided by geographer Martin Hampl (Hampl et al. 1978, 1987, 1996 and Hampl 2005). Regionalisation is in a permanent process of evolution and the attractiveness of regional centres changes over time. Hampl studies this evolution on the basis of census data. The latest update therefore followed the Census of 2001. Work commuting catchment areas are the starting point of regionalisation. They are established according to the hierarchical composition of the dominant orientation of commuting flows toward hierarchically higher units (more details in Hampl 2005). The final result of this procedure is the establishment of regions and their centres on macro-, mezzo- and micro levels. Macro-level regions are of importance to the whole country and in the Czech Republic, there is only one such centre – Prague. The mezzo-level represents centres and areas on the sub-national regional level of regional importance. According to Hampl’s analysis, there are eleven urban cores on the mezzo-level in the Czech Republic: Brno, Ostrava, Plzeň, Olomouc, České Budějovice, Zlín, Hradec Králové, Ústí nad Labem, Pardubice, Liberec and Karlovy Vary. They were determined according to their population size, the size of their commuting catchment area and its relative autonomy. They all represent regional capitals of NUTS 3 regions (see Figure 2). Of the fourteen NUTS 3 regional capitals, Jihlava, a centre in the Vysočina region, is missing because its power of attractiveness is diminished due to its position between the two most important centres in the Czech Republic: Prague and Brno. The Středočeský region, situated around Prague, does not have a regional centre because of the dominance of Prague. The administrative borders of NUTS 3 regions are only partially in compliance with geographical regionalisation. The dominance of Prague’s influential zone results in the weakening of almost all the neighbouring regions. Finally, the lowest, micro-regional level is represented by the other 132 regions, determined by the population size of their respective regions as between approximately 15 000 and 40 000 inhabitants.

Demographic and socio-economic characteristics of the population from a regional and urban-rural gradient perspective

In this chapter, further descriptive analysis will be undertaken in order to understand the structural differences of the population in the urban-rural gradient categories. At the same time, the importance of the regional determinant will be measured. Where the availability of data allowed, variables were controlled for differentiation in the age structure or the educational structure of the population. The tool of shift and share analysis has been employed for that purpose. This spacial type of regression model will help to asses the importance of different factors (independent variables) in explaining the spatial differentiation of demographic and socio-economic characteristics under study.

Structural-geographical analysis: analytical tool description

Population change, educational structure and fertility levels may differ by spatial categories in simple descriptive analysis. But such simple comparisons may omit certain important structural differences underlying the differentiation between spatial categories. For instance, the population growth rate over the time interval 0-1 may differ between spatial categories. But we do not know from simple descriptive analysis whether this differences are statistically important. We also do not know whether the differences are due to the characteristics of the spatial cathegories itself or whether it is due to the difference of structures within the cathegories. Or another example, levels of fertility in rural areas may be higher than those in urban areas, but we do not know if this difference is a structural effect (eg. caused by differences in age structure or education) or an effect of the spatial category itself. To distinguish the structural effect from the spatial effect, we will use structural-geographical analysis (shift and share), which is in fact a special type of regression. In its description below, I will cite the explanation as presented in Gaigné et al. (2005) and Piguet (2005). To be able to carry out our analysis, we need to have at least two quantitative variables and two qualitative variables. The quantitative variables serve to create the observed variable: growth rate proportion (over the time interval 0-1) or average. The qualitative variables serve to classify the population into sub-populations. I will describe here the shift and share analysis method applied to the example of population change between 1991 and 2001. Population change is composed of two quantitative variables, namely population in 1991 and population in 2001. The two qualitative variables are represented in this particular case by regions i where i (i = 1-14) and by urban-rural gradient categories where j (j = 1-7). Then, the decomposition of the shift and share analysis takes the form of three change ratios: rij = r + (ri – r) + (rij – ri) (1).

Table of contents :

P A R T I. Theoretical concept, societal context and research questions 
1. Theoretical background
1.1 Terminological note
1.2 Towards a general description and explanation of agglomeration mechanisms – New Economic Geography Perspective
1.3 Observations in population spatial dynamics – toward a common pattern?
2. General context of societal development in the Czech Republic
2.1. Pre-1989 shifts in economic orientation, policies and their repercussions on regional development
2.2. Post-1989 societal transformation and its repercussions on regional development
3. Research questions, hypothesis and outline of the thesis
3.1 Research questions and hypothesis
3.2 Outline of the thesis
P A R T II. Quantitative conceptualisation of space and definition of spatial categories 
4. Existing approaches to definitions of the urban-rural gradient and core-periphery regions
4.1 Urban – rural approach
4.1.1 Existing approaches in the Czech Republic
4.1.2. Existing approaches in Europe
4.2 Core-periphery regional approach in the Czech Republic
5. Commuting based classification: a new approach to the urban-rural gradient definition in the Czech Republic
5.1 Method
5.2 Discussion
P A R T III. Analysis of the spatial population dynamics in the Czech Republic 
6. Descriptive analysis of population structure and dynamics in spatial categories
6.1. General characteristics of space and population
6.2 Demographic and socio-economic characteristics of the population from a regional and urban-rural gradient perspective
6.2.1 Structural-geographical analysis: analytical tool description
6.2.2 Population change differentiation
6.2.3 Family and fertility patterns differentiation
6.2.4 Differentiation of social and economic characteristics of the population
6.2.5 Spatial differentiation of demographic, social and economic characteristics of the population – general remarks
7. Analysis of migration flows as the main component of spatial population dynamics
7.1 Residential migration data set
7.2 General patterns of residential migration in the Czech Republic
7.3 Description of residential migration across the spatial categories and data reduction
7.3.1 Protocol
7.3.2 Social status, life cycle or sex? Findings about the main determinants of residential migration from descriptive analysis
8. Structure and determinants of residential migration: explorative analysis
8.1. Gravity model
8.2 Results
CONCLUSIONS: A tale of conservative commuters and population not-very-dynamics in the Czech Republic after 1989 


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