Centre for Rural Economy

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Covid-19 and rural economies

A new briefing note considers the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on rural economies and communities.

The Covid-19 outbreak and UK government-led measures to contain it are having widespread effects on rural economies and communities. The disease is affecting all aspects of rural society, both directly when people from rural communities fall ill, but also because of the social distancing restrictions that are in place to limit the progress of the disease. It is impacting household incomes and rural businesses in every sector within our diverse rural economies, as well as charitable and community organisations. Some of these impacts will also be medium or long-term.

Past crises have highlighted the resilience and adaptability of rural economies. The Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreak in 2001 and the associated rural shutdown illustrated this as well as, more recently, recovery from the 2007/8 financial crisis and recession. Some of the structural features of rural areas, notably their more dispersed population base and their already established tradition of home based working could well serve to act as a source of resilience during this crisis. On the other hand, more severe restrictions placed in this crisis on personal travel for non-essential purposes may impact more heavily on rural areas, due to the greater dispersal of workplaces, consumer and business services, and the importance of visitor economies to many rural areas.

The purpose of this briefing note is to consider how the Covid-19 outbreak is affecting rural economies and to present a set of recommendations for Government. The primary focus is on the UK situation, but the issues have resonance for rural economies in the EU, which face similar issues.

Download the full briefing note here.

published on: 9 April 2020