Sparsely populated and long distancesMiddle and Upper Norrland (ie the four northernmost counties of Västernorrland and Jämtland in NUTS 2, View 07, Norrbotten and Västerbotten in the NUTS 2, see 2008) is an extremely sparsely populated area with about 55 percent of the country, but only 10 percent of the population. The region, with an area of 225 434 km2, which is a larger area than Greece and Portugal combined, has 883 215 inhabitants or four people per km2. That compares with the average for EU member countries at 119 inhabitants per km2, even in relation to the Swedish average of 22 inhabitants per km2, the region is very sparsely populated, which map to the right shows.
There are very long distances for transportation of people and goods from the middle and northern part of Sweden to bigger markets and densely populated areas in Europe and the existing markets are not big enough to supply the base required for a diversified industry. Export oriented companies have long transport distances to markets and customers. Ordinary people as well as businessmen in the northern part of Sweden are because of that more dependent on a well functioning and effective communication system compared to people living in densely populated areas in Sweden and in the rest of Europe.
Long distances lead to a reduction in employment and education possibilities as well as reduced access to public and commercial service. In addition, the cost for service in just about all areas becomes higher for each citizen: schools, kindergarten, elder care, public transportation, commercial service and so on. The labour market in north Sweden has in many cases narrow functions and the possibility to link complementing labour markets, an alternative with great potential, has not been utilized in lack of well functioning communications. Further on, the major part of the map reminds of a “white spot”, despite many bigger communities most areas have a population consisting of less than 12 500 citizens within a radio of 30 kilometres. The cities are small and the area is sparsely populated.