Észak-Alföld: Rural Character, Intra-regional Disparities, Unbalanced Sex Ratio Structures
Észak-Alföld is that a deficit of young women seems to be the most characteristic for the age group of 30–39 year old peopleÉszak-Alföld is the second largest macro (NUTS 2) region in Hungary, both in terms of size and population (1.5 million inhabitants). It borders two EU member states: Romania and Slovakia and a non-member state: Ukraine. The Region is formed by three counties (from West to East): Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok, Hajdú-Bihar and Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg. As a result of the forced and regionally selected industrialization in the era of state socialism and the restructuring of the economy and the changing geopolitical situation of the border regions during post-socialist transition, Észak-Alföld has become one of the most backward macro-regions with low GDP/capita and high unemployment rate in Hungary, suffering mainly from the restructuring and privatised agriculture as well as the loss of the Soviet markets of the food industry. Although half of the population lives in “growing poles” and their suburban zones (the centre of the macro-region is Debrecen with 207.000 inhabitants), 80% of the region’s territory, that is the highest percentage in the country, can be characterized as rural space.
Észak-Alföld is a region with a shrinking population. The number of inhabitants decreased three times faster than the national average since 2000. The rural micro-regions of Észak-Alföld suffer from strong out-migration (that is the 2nd highest volume in Hungary), that can be described as rural-to urban movement inside NUTS3 regions (counties). A peculiarity of Észak-Alföld is that a deficit of young women seems to be the most characteristic for the age group of 30–39 year old people.
It is obvious that Észak-Alföld has significant internal disparities. While Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok county reflects the current demographic and economic phenomena typical of Hungarian rural areas (depopulation, unemployment, selective migration), the other counties seem to preserve a traditional demographic and migration pattern, slightly affected by the trends of post-industrial European society. The shortage of young women is significantly higher in Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok − a county with relatively populous villages (2000-3000 inhabitants) − than in Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg where small settlements are typical, being one of the poorest and economically weakest counties of Hungary, and is among the ones with the highest proportion of Roma people as well as the highest unemployment rate. Correlation between settlement size and gender distribution is a typical phenomenon of the region.