29 Aug 2010

During this summer holiday season when the RSA bloggers are 'enjoying' the British climate, there is little else to do but study the geography of the European Union. For the experienced reader, talk of NUTS, LAUs and all manner of other acroynms will pose no problem and present no riddle. However, to the unaccustomed, and those not yet familiar with the kind of bar room chat you hear at Regional Studies Conferences, this can all seem a bit baffling. Hence, a short demystifying session...

What are NUTS? Well, it stands for Nomenclature of territorial units for statistics and it's a hierarchical way of dividing up the economic territory of the EU for collecting statistics, doing analysis and for framing regional policies. So, fairly important! But, everyone already knows this of course.

How long have NUTS been around for? The system goes back to the early 1970s and has been around - in various manifestations - ever since. There are some useful history pages on the Eurostat website.

How many types of NUTS areas are there? If you said 'five' you would no longer be correct, technically. Now there is NUTS1, NUTS2, NUTS3 and then LAU1 and LAU2 - the latter two were formerly NUTS4 and NUTS5 but are now known as Local Administrative Units.

What's the minimum population of a NUTS3 area? Hmm. The answer is 150,000. The maximum population of a NUTS1 area? 7 millon. But wait. These principles and characteristics sometimes vary. The NUTS1 region of Nordrhein-Westfalen in Germany actually has 18 million people, whereas the NUTS3 region of Madrid in Spain has more than 3 million and the NUTS3 region (island) of Gozo in Malta has less than 50,000, just like similar NUTS3 regions in the UK, Greece and Austria among other nations. To make all this clear, you could read this 150-page document!

Finally, if you're looking for the boundaries of these for your GIS, try here or here. If you just want NUTS stats, look here.