Policy Implications of Coronavirus Crisis for Rural Development

Released on the 16th June 2020, this OECD policy note examines the ‘Policy Implications of Coronavirus Crisis for Rural Development’ and considers the policy responses that OECD member countries are adopting. It first discusses the economic effect on rural regions, followed by a summary of opportunities and associated challenges.

The note then details how governments are responding to the crisis and identifies how governments can prepare to leverage opportunities. The final section documents how OECD countries are responding, and uses national examples from a range of countries to highlight good practice policy.


Key Opportunities

  1. Accelerating use and diffusion of digital tools as confinement measures are forcing remote working practices, remote learning and e-services.
  2. Increased opportunities to work remotely could promote attractiveness of rural areas.
  3. Shift in consumer preferences towards local services and goods. In some OECD countries, there are discussions about reshoring strategic businesses to boost rural economies.
  4. Positive effect of lockdown measures on pollution and CO2 emissions levels can lead to increased social demands for policies to support a green and sustainable recovery.
  5. Finally, the crisis offers rural communities an opportunity to mobilise and strengthen local networks to face economic shock. Local initiatives that emerged temporarily to address immediate effects of the pandemic can be harnessed to improve community resilience in the long term.

Key Challenges

  1. Immediate challenges include how to provide essential medical services and testing facilities to rural citizens, considering the higher proportion of vulnerable elderly people in rural areas.
  2. The movement of urban dwellers from cities to rural areas will have positive economic benefits for tourism, but could have costly environmental effects, as well as risk of spreading virus to isolated areas.
  3. Address the digital divide between urban and rural areas, which at times excludes rural inhabitants from working or studying remotely. A 2019 report shows that across OECD countries, 85% of urban households had access to 30 Mbps of broadband, whereas in rural regions only 56% of rural households had access. A forthcoming OECD policy note on remote working shows a consistent difference between urban/rural areas.

How can governments prepare to leverage opportunities?

  • Speed up investment in digital infrastructure and supporting ecosystem to increase uptake of digital tools in rural areas.
  • Encourage uptake of remote services by rural-proofing national rules to train teachers and health care professionals to adopt remote forms of service delivery.
  • Provide financial and technical assistance to support community-based and social innovation projects which aim at protecting the most vulnerable citizens in rural areas, including the elderly and migrants.
  • Include sustainability criteria in COVID-19 recovery actions so that they can contribute to long-term climate change mitigation.
  • Support the resilience of rural communities by enhancing social solidarity networks that meet the basic living standards of the vulnerable citizens in rural areas.

Read the full policy note here.