The Rotten banana: Rural challenges in Denmark

by Mette Dam, Denmark, ELP 2015
Written on July 11, 2015.

On Monday morning, I participated in a workshop about rural development in South Korea and it made me think about how the challenges in rural Japan differs from the issues we face in Denmark.

In Denmark all of the basic needs such as roads, electricity, etc. have already been established in the rural areas for a long time. The challenges in the rural areas of Denmark exists of an overall negative tendency where rural areas become more and more isolated and lag behind the national average for a number of key indicators such as income levels, population and employment opportunities making the difference between the rural areas and cities more and more significant.

The areas where this negative tendency are most significant are metaphorically called the rotten banana as the shape of these areas looks like a banana and because things are not going well in these areas it is a rotten banana, see picture 1.

However this has not always been the case. 
Historically, industry heavily relied on uneducated people and used to be situated in the rural areas, but as the industry started to move their production towards the east because of lower labor cost, more and more jobs were removed from the rural areas without the creation of alternative job opportunities making it difficult to maintain economic growth at remote areas.

Figure 1: The rotten banana in Denmark (Source:

The Danish welfare system tries to address this problem by transferring funds from rich to poor regions, compensating for the income gap. Another plan which is not implemented yet but is on a proposal is the liberalization of the Danish planning act, making it possible to build recreational areas as vacation centers and large water parks on our seashores in order to generate economic growth in the rural areas. However, this idea has been heavily criticized.

Many people are against the plan, including me, as a clear seashore without buildings is something special for Denmark that many countries do not have, making it one of our main tourist attractions. It will be interesting whether the action plan will be enforced or not.

Image iconmette-1_2.jpg Figure 2 Drawing from a danish newspaper (source: