DEMOGRAPHIC SUSTAINABILITY AND TERRITORY FOCUS BELLUNO: AN OPEN CASE

Presented a research on population projections to 2031 in Belluno province and different supra-municipal areas, with impact analysis on educational programming, labor market, and services for the elderly.


Economy - published on 04 March 2024


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Source: Osservatorio Economico Sociale Treviso Belluno

Belluno, Feb. 28. The Economic Social Observatory of Treviso and Belluno has conducted research on population projections to 2031 in the provinces of Treviso and Belluno. Trying to understand what the different effects of these projections will be in different municipalities, with what impacts on school planning, the labor market, and services for the elderly.

Author of the study, statistician Andrea Mamprin. Speaking as discussants were Massimiliano Salvador, Veneto Regional School Office, director of the Belluno Area Office; Letizia Bertazzon, Labor Market Observatory, Veneto Lavoro; and Gianpiero Dalla Zuanna, professor of demography at the University of Padua.

Institutional greetings were given by: Councillor Raffaele Addamiano of the municipality of Belluno, Oscar De Pellegrin. Mario Pozza, president of the Treviso-Belluno Chamber of Commerce, and Ivo Nardi, president of the Economic Observatory, did the honors.

Not as of today, the transformations in the age structure of the population and the demographic imbalances present in the various territories of the Veneto region are posing a series of questions related to the sustainability of some dynamics (think, first and foremost, of the labor market) or at least to the changes in some essential services (schools, the elderly). These changes become even more evident if we try to project current trends into the near future.

Should current trends continue, the regional population at 2031 is expected to be 4.824 million, or about 46,000 fewer people than in 2021 (-0.9%). In ten years, it is as if the inhabitants of the cities of Belluno and Sedico would completely disappear. But the balance would be far more dramatic if a projection were considered in the absence of migration flows: -190,000 inhabitants would be lost in Veneto, almost the sum of the inhabitants of the cities of Vicenza and Treviso.

The first message is clear. We manage to contain the damage of the “demographic winter” only thanks to the migration balance, especially the foreign migration balance. With flows that at this point will have to be intelligently managed, functional for employment inclusion.

How will things go in the province of Belluno? According to projections prepared by the Observatory at the end of the 2021-2031 decade, the province may lose about 7,500 inhabitants, as if the municipality of Ponte nelle Alpi disappears. It will therefore go from 199,700 to 192,200 inhabitants. A decline of -3.8% versus -0.9% at the regional level. But in the absence of migration flows, the contraction could be -13,000 inhabitants, the equivalent of the entire new area of Borgo Valbelluna.

Staying with the assumption offset by the migration balance, however, it must be said that this decline will not be evenly distributed across the territory. The areas that will suffer most from the population decline will be Cadore and Agordino, with contractions of -7.5% or more over the 2021-2031 decade. For Cadore, it means losing an additional 2,500 inhabitants. Milder the “demographic winter” in the area around Belluno: which will polarize 48%of the provincial population by the end of 2031, limiting the contraction to -1.5%.

The first, tangible, effects of these demographic dynamics are the decline in the number of children (also due to fewer cohorts of mothers of childbearing age) and the increase in the elderly population (more longevity, overall, and transit of the most populous generation of so-called “boomers” toward retirement ages).

Childcare services (0-2 years) will experience the paradox of progressively better coverage rates due to shrinking birth cohorts (-680 babies 0-2 years in the period 2021-2031 in the province of Belluno). Today, the supply of daycare places “barely” covers 32% of potential need. With unchanged supply of services, a potential coverage of 39% could be reached in 2031. And it would only take 175 more nursery places in the province to reach the European target of 45% coverage.

But already in elementary school the story will be very different. In the province of Belluno, from 2021 to 2031, the population of students in the 6-10 age group will shrink by about 1,600 (-20.5%). If in 2021 there were 1,418 pupils enrolled in the first classes, in 2031 there will be 1,175 (-243). A decrease that, inevitably, will have to lead to the overcoming of the current criteria for class formation and the adoption of educational and organizational innovations, if we want to avoid as much as possible the cutting of plexuses, especially in small communities. Middle schools will also lack another -1,132 students, those included in the 11-13 age group.

As for the elderly, in the province of Belluno the incidence of the over-65s in the total population will increase from 21.0% in 2001 to 31.4 percent in 2031. This incidence will reach 33.4% in Cadore. In absolute values, this means that in the time frame of consideration we will go from about 43,800 to about 60,300 over-65s (+16,500, an increase of +6,000 in the last decade 2021-2031 alone). In the same proportion, we have to imagine an increase in the pressure on health and social welfare services, with all that this entails in terms of the tightness of supply, in an area that, due to its orography, also poses problems of access to services.

In the midst of denatality and aging lies the functioning of the labor market, which will also have to encounter new balances. From 2021 to 2031 regionally there will be about 143 thousand fewer residents of working age. This projection leads to outline, for the Belluno labor market, a potential shortfall of about 9,000 working-age residents. But the additional phenomenon to consider is the different composition by educational qualifications of the cohorts exiting and entering the labor market. As is physiological to expect, the outgoing cohorts are on average less educated than the young people entering the labor market. To give a number: the graduation rate among the employed in the 60-64 year-old cohort as of 2022 is 17.3 percent, which doubles with reference to the 25-29 year-old cohort (35.9%). The figure is regional, but that of Belluno is substantially in line.

This foreshadows a double level of employment mismatching: quantitative, on the objective basis of the lower stock of working-age residents; and qualitative, on the basis of the recomposition by educational qualifications of the working population, with inevitable different occupational expectations, increasingly less compatible with the most basic segments of labor demand.

COMMENTS

Mario Pozza – President of the Treviso-Belluno Chamber of Commerce|Dolomites

“This research on the demographic projections to 2031 in our territories provides us with important numbers, which force us to define new hypotheses of the future for our community”-is the first hot comment of the President of the Chamber of Commerce of Treviso-Belluno, Mario Pozza.

“In the province of Belluno, between 2021 and 2031, businesses will lack about 9,000 working-age residents. It will therefore worsen the already difficult process of labor force recruitment by companies, in the short term compensable – according to President Pozza – by an intelligent management of migration flows, and by raising the female employment rate.”

“But,” he immediately adds, “in a medium- to long-term vision, we will have to redefine, in companies and territories, the conditions for attracting young talent. Few and more qualified. That it is not true that they do not want to work: in reality they are asking to be better valued, in terms of roles, salaries, careers, also for the social and cultural environment we can offer them.”

“Finally,” Pozza concludes, “let us also not forget that demography also means denatality and aging. Belluno’s elementary schools will lack 1,600 pupils at the end of the 2021-2031 decade (and another -1,130 students will be missing in middle schools). The institutions in charge will have to decide between cutting the number of plexuses or rethinking their functions, especially to guard small communities. I am for the second option, of course, but that implies quite a few organizational changes in schools and municipalities. In the same period, Bellunesi over 65 will increase by 6,000, from 54,300 to 60,300, bringing their incidence to 31.4% in 2031 (when in 2021 it was 21%).”

President Pozza asks at this point, “Can social health care withstand this shock wave, with an unchanged model in service delivery? What levers do we have, including social innovation, to mitigate the damage, or better yet, even to radically rethink the logic of subsidiarity? You see: there are many questions that arise when wondering about demographic scenarios. This Economic Observatory research presented today is crucial, to understand that we are running out of time, that we must act. Otherwise, the scenarios we can only suffer.”

Ivo Nardi – President of the Economic Social Observatory of Treviso and Belluno

“As President of the Social Economic Observatory,” says President Ivo Nardi, “I am particularly pleased with the feedback I received today at the end of the seminar on demographics, where institutions, trade associations and trade union parties discussed a very important and current issue.

In this first part of my term of office,” Nardi emphasizes, “there has been an in-depth dialogue with the 28 Institutions/Associations that are members of the Observatory, true ‘sentinels’ of the world of work, schooling and social life. From listening to them, the shoots of research projects were born. The first one I strongly wanted to focus on is today’s one on demographic analysis,” Nardi continues, “aware of its relevance to our communities. It is clear that demographics and competitiveness are crucial to understanding and guiding the economic and social development of our provinces.

The seminar offered an important stimulus for research and reflection on possible actions to be taken to counter the demographic winter,” Nardi continued. We would like to thank researcher Andrea Mamprin for his valuable research, as well as Massimiliano Salvador from the Veneto Regional School Office, Head of the Belluno Area Office, for his initial considerations on the impact of demographics in school planning, and Letizia Bertazzon, from the Labor Market Observatory of Veneto Lavoro, for her important focus on the world of work.

Finally, we are honored to have Prof. Gianpiero Dalla Zuanna, full professor of Demography at the Department of Statistical Sciences, University of Padua, as academic discussant. His speech, closing the research and other speakers’ presentations, gave great value to our seminar.

The Social Economic Observatory continues to be committed to the analysis and promotion of initiatives aimed at understanding and addressing the demographic and socio-economic challenges of our communities,” Nardi concluded, “We will continue to work with determination to stimulate all stakeholders in the area for a better future.”

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