Greenland: Large decline in Greenland’s working age population projected, but increase in bioeconomy jobs

By 2040, Greenland’s working age population is projected to decrease by 16% – the largest decline in the Region. The State of the Nordic Region 2020 report highlights that Greenland’s increase in bioeconomy jobs is above Nordic average.

Changing population and job dynamics

Urbanisation and population ageing are changing the dynamics of the economy and labour market all across the Nordic Region. Greenland is projected to see the largest decline of its working-age population, 16%, compared to 6.6% in the Faroe Islands, 3% in Finland and 2% in Denmark. Moreover, many rural communities have seen a decline in their youth population, with Avannaata municipality losing a staggering 85% of its young people, aged 20-29, in the last two decades.

The report ranks all Nordic regions in the Regional Potential Index, comparing them on a range of demographic, economic and labour force indicators. Greenland is ranked 48th out of 66 regions, which is similar to its ranking in 2018. Greenland slightly improves its demographic and labour force scores, due to higher employment and less out-migration, while the economic dimension has remained stable. In the category of rural regions, Greenland is placed 21st out of 32 regions.

According to the report, Greenland has the highest proportion of jobs in agriculture, forestry and fisheries of all the Nordic countries, 23.5%, which is also significantly above the EU28 average of 4.6%. In Greenland, the number of jobs in these sectors increased by more than 5% between 2009 and 2017, which is among the largest increases amid Nordic regions.

Greenland is a notable exception when it comes to the share of foreign-born people in its population. This share has increased everywhere else in the Nordic Region, but Greenland’s proportion of foreign-born people has declined from 17% in 1990 to 10% in 2018. The highest share of foreign-born people is found in Sweden, 19%, and the lowest in Finland, 7%.

Second-highest fertility rates

Greenland’s fertility rates are the second-highest in the Nordic Region. Traditionally, Greenland has been well over replacement levels (2.1 children per woman), but since 2000, the country’s fertility rates have diminished from 2.5 births per woman to 2.0. The Faroe Islands are currently the only part of the Nordic Region with fertility rates above replacement levels, with 2.5 births per woman.

In general, fertility rates have been decreasing across the Nordic Region, and quite rapidly in some areas. In Iceland, Norway and Finland, the current birth rates are the lowest ever recorded.

As in Iceland and the Faroe Islands, there are more children aged 0-14 years than people aged 65 and over in Greenland, even though the difference has diminished over the years. Greenland has the largest difference of all Nordic countries, with 21% of its population aged under 15 years and 8.5% aged over 65. This can be related to a combination of relatively high fertility rates and the shortest life expectancy in the Region. Life expectancy at birth is 70.7 years in Greenland, which is about 10 years lower than in the other Nordic countries.

Low share of renewables

All the Nordic countries have increased their share of renewables in energy consumption between 2004 and 2017, with the largest relative increases in Denmark, 21%, and Sweden, 16%. Renewables now account for 19% of Greenland’s gross final energy consumption, compared to Iceland and Norway with a share of over 70%, Denmark at 36% and the Faroe Islands at 7.5%.

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