Redefining rural in Chile

Chile’s official definition

The official definition delimiting urban and rural areas in Chile is constructed by the National Statistical Institute (INE). It classifies localities as either urban or rural. Urban localities are considered to be those inhabited by over 2 000 persons, or by between 1 001 and 2 000 persons when 50% or more of the economically active population is engaged in secondary or tertiary activities.1 As a special case, tourism and recreation centres which have at least 250 clustered dwellings but fail to meet the required population standard may also be classified as urban. According to the official definition, 87% of the Chilean population lives in urban areas.

There are a number of noticeable characteristics that emerge from this definition:

  • • The entire territory is classified dichotomously as either urban or rural.
  • • The definition focuses primarily on urban characteristics defining rural as the residual after urban is defined.
  • • The definition does not differentiate among different types of rural areas in Chile.
  • • It does not recognise mixed areas where there are strong urban and rural interactions.

The main shortcomings of this definition lie in its inability to capture basic elements of a modern rural economy, including: recognising areas of urban and rural interactions; differentiating among different types of rural areas; recognising and defining multiple types of rural towns and settlements; and finally, capturing rural areas attracting inhabitants with adequate human capital and skills - those rural areas which are emerging close to cities through improvements in accessibility and information and telecommunications technology (ICT) connections that attract high-skilled dwellers wanting access to green spaces close to urban centres.

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