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MALA – Mobile working in rural areas

The research project “MALA – Mobile working in rural areas” funded by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture deals with the question whether the digitalization of work can have a positive impact on the development opportunities of rural areas. The research focuses on the identification of innovative concepts and successful strategies to promote mobile working and new forms of work.

Project background

Demographic change, processes of migration and the loss of skilled workers and young residents (“brain drain”) affect rural areas in particular. At the same time, a large number of people considers living in rural areas as particularly attractive. For this reason the number of daily commuters is rising. Furthermore according to the theory of second modernity the individualization and changing labour markets are the big drivers of spatial mobility. In addition high speed transport infrastructure, rising motorization and low priced air travel have set a conducive framework for increasing spatial mobility and along with this a rising number of multi-local-living-commuters.

Work-related residential multi-locality (= households with a second residence) is associated with temporary absences that can have a negative impact on social cohesion, above all in sparsely populated rural regions. Additionally, in the long term, multi-locality can become the "door opener" for a permanent relocation to urban areas. At the same time the digitalization is creating new forms of work that are independent of location. Technological developments such as mobile devices and the dissemination of mobile internet enables many employees to complete work-related tasks almost anywhere and at any time. These possibilities of mobile working and new forms of work can be an enormous development opportunity for rural areas. Problems that result from temporary absences and the mass phenomenon commuting may be avoided and thus in the future rural areas will be preserved as attractive places to live and work in. Modern communication possibilities and progressive digitalization can here contribute to bring living and working closer together again.

Objectives of the research project

Against the background of increasing digitalization, flexibilization and modernization in our working world the objective of the research project “MALA” is to identify instruments and strategies for sustainable regional development. In the long term the liveability of rural regions should be strengthened. Therefor the research project should provide answers to the following scientific and application-oriented questions (selection):

  • What new forms of work occur from digitalization? Which industries and professions are particularly suitable for mobile, location-independent work? Which forms of mobile, location-independent work can be found in rural areas already?
  • Can digitalization contribute to the dissolution of the polar comparison of cities as working-locations and villages as residential locations?
  • Does the on-going digitalization lead to changes in lifestyle patterns and the spread of residential multi-locality?
  • Which conditions need to be fulfilled to enable new forms of mobile working in rural areas? What are the main location requirements for mobile working?
  • What options do local municipalities have to promote mobile working in rural areas?

Expected results

The intended result of the research project are recommended actions for municipalities to promote and enable mobile working in rural areas. These recommendations should enable municipalities in rural areas to adapt to the changing world of work and the steadily increasing mobilization of work in the long term. During the project a working paper and several scientific articles on mobile working and multi-locality will be published.