The inclusion of the suburban area of Aarhus

Aarhus is the second largest city in Denmark with approximately 285,000 inhabitants. As a large city with a scale of opportunities to offer, Aarhus attracts citizens with an ethnic background who want to pursue education, employment and business opportunities. This has resulted in the largest ethnic concentration in Denmark. The suburban area of Aarhus, represented by the neighbourhoods of Gellerup, Hasle and Herredsvang, is one of the poorest areas in Denmark. In 2000, the inhabitants of the suburban area represented 7% of the entire population of Aarhus. Half of them were refugees and immigrants with their families, 40% were under the age of twenty and 73% of citizens with an ethnic minority background did not have stable employment.

Issue: the aim to include the whole population

The large concentration of disadvantaged social groups  in these deprived areas was a pressing issue for the city of Aarhus.  To change the current situation, access to the labour market, security and the social life of the Aarhus suburban area had to be improved in order to ensure the better inclusion of the whole population. To accomplish this, Aarhus Urban programme II was established.

Approach: positive focus on participation and future development

Socio-economic challenges were the first and most important focus of the programme; these included crime, unemployment, poor educational attainment and a low rate of participation in leisure activities. In this context the programme was divided into three different areas:

  • formal competences; 
  • Security; 
  • Social life.

During the currency of the programme, several projects were established to improve business development and employment opportunities, prevent criminality and abuse, increase citizens’ involvement in the solution of ethnic misunderstandings, establish leisure and cultural activities and develop green and recreational areas. Rather than taking account of the traditional socio-economic indicators, the programme focused on positive aspects of future developments. These included participation in culture and leisure activities, community cohesion or upgrading green recreational facilities. Citizen participation played an important role in the project.

Results: Aarhus, on the way to a city with an included population

The Aarhus Urban programme achieved positive results. Surveys have shown that citizens with an ethnic and minority background now participate at the same level as the rest of the population. In the period from 2000 to 2004 the level of employment increased from 29% to 31.2% of immigrants and refugees aged between 16 and 66 years. Growth in employment is achieved through company developments and partner agreements. In addition, crime levels dropped significantly in the area in 2000-2005, for instance because of crime prevention initiatives.

European involvement: the URBACT networking programme

The budget of the Urban Programme was 86 million Danish crowns, about €11 million. The European Commission supported the programme to the tune of 40 million Danish crowns; the remaining 46 million Danish Crowns were provided by the Aarhus municipality. The programme is engaged in URBACT through the Citiz@Move network. The network consists of twenty European cities, of which Aarhus is one. Since 2004, the cities have been involved in a process of exchanging and experiencing new possibilities for involving citizens in urban regeneration. This programme was established with the support of URBACT.