QREN context indicators
Interpreting the complexity of social and economic reproduction processes of societies relies, ever more commonly, on a territorialized matrix. It has increasingly been noted that integration of socioeconomic systems at global scale, and the intensification of interdependence relations between societies develop in a spatially differentiated manner, thus favouring the notion of region. Simultaneously, at smaller-dimension analysis, territories present differentiated capacities and performances. Development policies have, therefore, assumed a spatial dimension: territory, more than the physical base of social and economic reproduction processes, appears increasingly as an active element on the construction of these processes.
Since National Strategic Reference Framework (QREN) defines the economic, social and territorial cohesion community policy framework in Portugal for the period 2007-2013, the system of indicators “QREN context indicators” has adopted as its reference the strategic priorities defined in QREN - Qualification of the Portuguese population, Sustained growth, Social cohesion, Qualification of the territory and the cities and Governance efficiency. It is this system of context indicators that is now used for monitoring the realization of those priorities.
This indicator system has been developed within the scope of competences of the Statistical Council Territorial Base Standing Section (SPEBT-CSE), and its availability on the Official Statistics Website intends to facilitate the observation by the general public, as well as by public and private entities involved in QREN implementation, of the context on which public policies presently take place.
People are the key asset in any territorial development strategy, giving meaning to the monitoring of the demographic sustainability of territories at the municipal scale.
Demographic characteristics, for example at the level of age structures, migratory phenomena and forms of family, have strong implications on the functioning of the labour market, the setting of community facilities and social support. Low birth rates and migration movements are key issues at both the national and local level. Both have generally led to a change in the pace of population ageing. Peripheral regions become depopulated, while attractive regions may be able, even with low birth rates, to maintain positive population balances via migrations.
The end of long-term marriage and the increase in single-person households, although differently depending on the regions, render the traditional form of family increasingly less notorious. New forms of family, an enhancement in schooling and the integration of women in the labour market worsen the opportunity cost of having a child and reduce the probability of a short-term reversal of the population ageing process via the natural balance. Advances in medical assistance and in the quality of life have generally allowed for a stabilisation of mortality and a rise in average life expectancy. Hence, the future scenario is that of a population with less youth and more elderly people, albeit with greater longevity.
Capturing these processes at the municipal level is jeopardised by the low population size of some territorial units, which in a few cases prevents the indicator from being constructed and in other cases warrants some caution when interpreting the respective developments. The choice was to include in this system some indicators only available at NUTS 3 level, deemed instrumental for an enhanced definition in the demographic portrait.
Therefore, four vectors that are essential for the structuring of this indicator system were constructed: fertility, conjugality, ageing and migration.
Socio-economic characterisation at the microterritorial level
The definition of instruments to support planning at the local and municipal level is based on a deep understanding of the territory and underlying dynamics. In this vein, territorial indicator systems are a more efficient support to territorial management (location of infra-structures, facilities and access networks).
The socio-economic characterisation at the microterritorial level via census information is a key element for the definition of municipal policies. This information, collected on an exhaustive basis for individual persons, households, dwellings and buildings, enables comparability across the whole country. In this indicator system, microterritories are considered to be those statistical sub-sections that served as basis for the collection of census information and that correspond to the block in urban areas.
The interpretation proposed herein not only describes statistical individuals, but mainly reflects a characterisation of these territories as entities with specific features. In particular, microterritories are day-to-day living spaces integrated in a local context, but also reflecting the network of interactions in which they are involved.
The characterisation of these small living spaces is based on different perspectives of analysis and subject to the information available for this territorial scale. For a better social and economic understanding of these territories, preference was given to the demographic and housing dynamics. The core structure of this indicator system evolves according to four vectors deemed to be structuring in the interpretation of spatial planning at the local scale: town planning, ageing, mobility and qualification.