In no other large city in the Czech Republic is population decline as an election issue as Ostrava. About 20,000 people have been lost in the last decade. Experts say the main reason is young people leaving the country to study or work in other cities. He sees solutions not only in college investments, but also in rental housing and sports sector investments.

20,000 inhabitants is roughly equivalent to a medium-sized former district town. For example, Beroun, Kutná Hora, Nakhod, Vyshkov. And the number of inhabitants in the major cities of Moravian Silesia and in Ostrava, her third largest city in the country, has decreased by almost this amount in ten years. “Inhabitants are lost throughout the Moravian-Silesian region. These losses are the highest in the republic. This also applies to Ostrava, which is a relatively high figure,” said Jan Dener of the Ostrava branch of the Czech Statistical Office. Confirming.

In recent years, Ostrava’s population has declined on average by about 2,000 people per year. At the end of 2011, there were still nearly 300,000, compared to just 278,000 last year. Moreover, between last year and the year before last, the population decline was the greatest, with 5,500 of her deaths in Ostrava.

In competition with other big cities, Ostrava clearly stands out. “Between 2010 and 2020, Ostrava alone saw a 6% decline in population. and Pilsen the most (+4%),” he said in a survey last year by the Czech Statistical Office comparing the development of the country’s largest cities.

shrinking city

Ostrava therefore meets the definition of a so-called shrinking city, points out Petr Rampel, head of the Department of Physical Geography and Geoecology, which deals with the issue of depopulation in Ostrava. The term refers to a formerly densely populated settlement, but for a variety of reasons faces a large exodus of its inhabitants. Perhaps the most famous example of such a city is Detroit, Michigan, USA. Previously, we also had Leipzig in Germany and Liverpool in England.

As is the case with Ostrava, these are cities that have undergone a transformation from heavy industry in recent decades. “The Moravian-Silesian region has long been affected by restructuring. The economy in which it was founded will not create new jobs in the long term,” confirms Luděk Sýkora, a social geographer at Charles University. I’m here.

Both experts point out that the situation in Ostrava is not as dire as it was in Detroit. However, population decline brings with it some problems. As part of tax budgeting decisions, the city must address the loss of revenue. “But thanks to the influx of funds from structural funds, cities in the European Union are wealthier than, say, small towns in the United States,” Rumpel said.

If depopulation continues or accelerates, it will also become increasingly difficult for cities to pay for infrastructure originally built for a much larger population.

aging city

Another challenge is the fact that most of the people who leave are young people who leave the city for education or work and never return to Ostrava.

Among the six largest cities in the Czech Republic, it was here that the average age increased the most between 2011 and 2020. 43.6 years old in 2021, 41.3 years old 10 years ago. In this way, the age index, which is a value that expresses the ratio of young and old to the population, has increased rapidly. Even in 2001, he had 77 people over the age of 65 for every 100 children under the age of 15. Now the situation is reversed and there are 143 seniors for every 100 children.

“The number of elderly people has increased and will continue to increase. People will need more and more social and medical services,” confirmed Mayor Tomasz Makra (ANO). increase. But few new people have reached productive age to balance this imbalance. In 2020, Ostrava had only about 14 immigrants per 1,000 population, the lowest of her six large cities in the Czech Republic. In the second worst Olomouc he had 22 and in Prague 31.

The problem, according to geographer Peter Rumpel, is that most students in Ostrava’s secondary and grammar schools, except for a few disciplines, study two local universities: the University of Ostrava and the Mining University, second or third. The second is to be aware of it. Choice when choosing. “The universities of Prague, Brno and Olomouc are considered more prestigious and have a better image. They perceive the cities themselves as more interesting for life,” Lampel explained. increase.

Politicians see investment in universities as the main possibility of reversing the trend at least a little bit and attracting talented young people to the city. “Both universities have a lot to improve on. Usually it’s not love at first sight for someone interested in studying. And that’s why we provide housing for our next researcher,” says the mayor. Macra.

For example, the city has high hopes for the new campus of the University of Ostrava at the approximately 1 billion crown Cerna Louka exhibition center, which will open this autumn. Led by Macura, Ostrava wants to further support the development of Ostrava University’s medical faculty, which was founded in 2010, and is considering opening a dental department. The leader of the most popular opposition movement, Ostravak Lukasz Semerak, has also spoken about the possibility of establishing a law faculty.

According to Deputy Mayor and Pirates frontrunner Andrea Hoffman, it’s imperative that the city better spread its achievements. “We haven’t been able to improve our image yet. We need to market what is successful not only to the city, but also to universities and theaters,” he says.

Inspiration from Leipzig and Bochumin

But experts stress that the solution lies not only in attracting young people to the city, but also in retaining both new and existing residents. For example, housing policies and the provision of affordable housing.

Rumpel draws attention to the case of Bohumin, the only large city near Ostrava. Bohumin has reversed this trend and even saw a slight increase in population last year. “They haven’t given up on their homes, they’re renovating them. They’re investing in leisure activities and sports facilities. They’re doing it well,” Bofmina Rumpel said.

Future management of Ostrava can also draw on the example of Leipzig already mentioned. In the 1980s, it had about 562,000 inhabitants, but after the fall of the communist regime in East Germany, people began to migrate to the west of the country on a large scale. By 1995, the city had lost nearly 100,000 people and its economy and infrastructure began to decline.

Today, more people live in it than in the 1980s, and it’s a growing city again. “Since the 1990s, the Germans have turned the city into a very interesting and attractive place, offering rental housing. he says Rumpel.

Experts agree that Ostrava has already taken steps to follow in Leipzig’s footsteps. “We cannot say that Ostrava is dead. Much has been done in terms of commercial provision, cultural life. New jobs are being created in services and trade. Quantitatively replacing the original economy No, but the city is already a measure to make it attractive to future immigrants,” warns social geographer Luděk Sýkora.

“If people leave the city because they cannot find work there, there will be temporary difficulties. Those who cannot do so move to Prague.I work in Ostrava, but the same goes for Pilsen, Olomouc and Brno,” he said.

According to him, declining population may not be a big problem for Ostrava if the quality of life improves at the same time. “On the contrary, it symbolizes a structural change in which cities are moving from quantity to quality,” sums up the expert.

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