YOUMIG partners at the INFOSTAT research institute in Slovakia have been working with data on local populations in the seven localities that are partners in YOUMIG. This work was undertaken to estimate how the population would change in each city in 20 or 30 years, and a big factor in this is migration. How the number of emigrants, immigrants and returnees will change over such a relatively long period of time may sound like guesswork at first, but it is actually based on some very complex modelling and statistical methods. It is crucial to give decision-makers and local community planners some kind of idea of how migration could affect their towns in the long term.
Demographers generally prepare such calculations and estimate the number of the total population in each year for several decades by adding together data for births, deaths and net migration in a model that already considers many factors, like fertility rates and changes in life expectancy. YOUMIG researchers have taken upon themselves to look at connections between migration and population change more closely, with a strong focus on local data. This is important when drawing up a local picture of a community, which is exactly what YOUMIG has set out to do.
Szeged is one of the cities in the YOUMIG partnership where such population estimates have been prepared. There are several scenarios considering what might happen over many years if migration is at a low, medium, or high level. An estimation was prepared even for the hypothetical event of zero migration to and from a locality, in this case, Szeged.
But it seems that evidence-informed decision making may require a „reality check” on these estimates, ie. the challenge is there for researchers to bring the models as close as possible to what might actually happen in a town or city. Gathering this data in itself requires a lot of coordination work as in some local administrations data is better than in others.
Here is the projection for the population of Szeged in the years up to 2035, in three different scenarios. The first one considers the what-if situation when net migration (the balance of immigrants and emigrants) is at a higher level compared with current figures. The second one considers a scenario where migration remains stable, at a medium level, while the third case is if there is lower net migration in the future. We can see that by 2035 Szeged could face a population decline of quite different magnitudes depending on how migration trends change in that city.