Young people and regionalization, the future in question

The relationship between regionalization and young people is, to say the least, disturbing and disturbing.

Young people and regionalization – I confess my embarrassment in dealing with this issue, one of the most decisive for our collective future in the short, medium and long term.

In a country whose most striking features of the last two decades are monotonous growth, ageing, the impoverishment of almost 20% of the population and the abandonment of a growing part of the territory, the relationship between regionalization and young people is, to say the least, disturbing and disturbing.

And this because of a paradox at work.

We have, on the one hand, a growing rate of young people with higher education and higher education, which gives us hope for a better future, but, on the other hand, we do not see in them that civic and political shock that is necessary to accept an in-depth discussion the theme of regionalization and even, in general, the goodness of the decentralization process.

In other words, I suspect that the public debate on decentralization and regionalization processes, being so scarce and superficial, is not mobilizing for young people over 18 years of age, and even less so if we are not capable of providing real proof that there is a direct and positive causal link between decentralization, regionalization, development, good jobs and attractive wages.

And I am not sure that we will be able to prove this, because, after 36 consecutive years (1986-2022) of European funds, we still use our chronic problems of convergence with the European average to accumulate complaint capital and, thus, we continue to receive to aeternum funds from the European Union's cohesion funds.

And why is there this general indifference and even great suspicion on the part of young people in relation to the political process of decentralization and, even more, that of regionalization?

Firstly, public and political authorities did not treat a subject of a constitutional nature (administrative regionalization) with the dignity it deserved, that is, not only did they sin for decades by constitutional omission, but they did not disqualify it in successive constitutional revisions. , to the point that today it is a kind of dead weight in Portuguese politics, and this, despite its relevant socio-structural importance.

Secondly, because there is not, quite simply, an organized and serious public debate on the subject and a political pedagogy about the complexity, dynamics and phasing of the subject, which is why prejudices, misunderstandings and a lot of political lack of culture predominate; the absence of a pedagogical approach, phased in time, gave rise to some light and superficial outcrops in the public space that were immediately captured and polarized by social networks and by the most radical, populist and demagogue discourses.

Thirdly, I have doubts that the mere legal-institutional division of the country into regions is a mobilizing theme for young people, although I recognize the interest of party youths in the subject; however, in regional terms, reception, hospitality and attractiveness are measured, today, by the offer of an innovative technological and digital ecosystem where there are, side by side, spaces of coworking, incubators of startups, permanent residencies, an internship and scholarship program and, if possible, the embryo of a cluster artistic, cultural and sporting activities; these are the innovative and attractive means of the XNUMXst century.

Fourthly, the youth culture of the generations born at the beginning of this century and who are now at the university did not deserve the care and attention that was due to it by education, teaching, culture and sports institutions and, thus, was left at the mercy of networks where the culture broth is very contaminated,

Fifthly, the revolution in the labor market and in labor culture, mobility and digital nomadism are, today, trademarks of labor markets that are not compatible with worn-out arguments and promises of regional development and territorial cohesion; in fact, the labor market is so segmented and distorted between the coast and the interior that there is no room for a healthy discussion about the evolution of these markets and the opportunities that open up for younger people.

Sixthly, the persistence, over the last two decades, of monotonous growth, of aging and abandonment of the interior, of impoverishment and a continuous migratory flow, which young people are well aware of, has generated a lack of confidence in policies aimed at valuing the interior, in particular, cohesion and rural development policies, and created a recurrent suspicion against the regionalization policy itself.

Seventh, the responsibility of higher education institutions is decisive, not only in the creation of an appropriate public university space, but, above all, in the formation of an innovative inter-university action-research platform that interacts directly with the territories and their system. productive and with which students recognize themselves with regard to their professional opportunities.

Finally, there is a line of argument that proceeds by concealment, but which many young people have already understood; that is, with regard to the occupation of the territory, the aging and abandonment of the interior devalue the assets of the territory, which, therefore, are at the mercy of those who have sufficient and available capital, either to reside or to invest in economic activities; this capital exists, is increasingly of foreign origin and a substantial part goes through financial funds that are then applied in intensive and super-intensive investments, some of which are of dubious sustainability, but, above all, with very low taxation and regional retention.

Final Notes

Having arrived here, the task of identifying young people with regionalization is not easy. I want to believe, however, that the decentralization process for the municipalities does not raise so many doubts, since the results already obtained are visible.

However, an eventual capture of the regionalization process by the party machines, the media, or by some kind of inter-party agreement, could further aggravate this identification between young people and regionalization, insofar as it is perceived as a mere political instrumentalization -partisan without any practical results on the development conditions of intermunicipal communities and regions.

It is up to the municipalities, the intermunicipal communities (CIM) and the regional decentralized administration, together with higher education institutions and professional and business associations, to establish a collaborative platform and a modus operandi that allows creating a favorable and attractive environment for young people , in such a way that, at the end of this methodology/procedure, regionalization is just the final finishing touch in the added value chain of the entire participatory and collaborative process.


Author António Covas is a Retired Full Professor at the University of Algarve