Can depopulation in Europe's islands be reversed?

United Kingdom - With islands across Europe having experienced years of population decline, many now face an uncertain future.

According to projections, swathes of rural Europe will continue to experience shrinking, ageing populations – none more so than island communities. Throughout the continent, governments and communities are trying to answer the same question: can island depopulation be reversed?

For a community to function, there must be enough people to fill roles in sectors such as education, transport, food provision – as well to provide general support and friendship. This makes maintaining a sufficient working age population one of the greatest risks to the wellbeing of islanders – and the future of many island communities.

If numbers dip below a certain level, there is a serious risk that some communities – or even entire islands – could be abandoned entirely. Complete abandonment is not unprecedented, and has occurred in many European islands.

While visitors may view islands as picturesque holiday destinations abound with natural beauty, for islanders, sustaining populations is not just favourable, but essential. For island depopulation to be reversed, crucial issues like transport links, housing, employment, and higher education shortages must be urgently addressed.

Photo: Angela Catlin


Jamie Mann is an investigative journalist and a director of The Ferret, Scotland's investigative journalism platform.

Daniela Sala is an Italian award-winning multimedia journalist covering the climate crisis, migration, trafficking, human rights, and mental health.

Angela Caitlin is a freelance photographer who covers humanitarian, social and many other issues around the world.

Angela Caitlin
  • Island
  • Depopulation
€16.000 allocated on 28/07/2022
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