COVID-19 has put renewed focus on the importance of addressing longstanding challenges that OECD governments face in delivering public services, especially in regions with people spread over a wider area where economies of scale are more difficult to achieve. The physical infrastructure needed to provide good quality education and health services can be more complex and expensive in rural and remote regions that also struggle to attract and retain education and health care professionals. Acute ageing trends in many rural regions and, in some cases, a shrinking population will require sustainable policy responses that will need to be coherent with pressure to drive efficiencies in public spending. This report examines the nuances specific to the delivery of education and health care to people everywhere, offering recommendations on how to better adapt provision to the realities of today and the emerging realities of tomorrow to face the challenges of distance, demographic change and fiscal belt-tightening. The report also examines digital connectivity issues in rural and remote regions, recognising the significant scope for digital delivery of services to mitigate challenges related to distance. Finally, the report looks at governance issues, including fiscal issues, through which the delivery of these critical services is administered and paid for.
Rural regions are places of opportunity with diverse economies but require a place-based approach beyond agricultural policy to thrive. OECD Rural Studies explores how to promote the competitiveness of firms and the wellbeing of residents in rural areas. Rural policy reviews assess the performance of rural areas and make recommendations to address challenges and seize opportunities through rural development policies and other policies with significant impacts on rural places. Thematic studies cover topics such as service delivery, rural-urban linkages, innovation, land use, economic sectors (such as natural resource extraction, renewable energy and ecosystem services) or particular types of rural residents (such as Indigenous communities).