Food and film help Faroe Islands reverse population trend as economy flourishes


Food and film help Faroe Islands reverse population trend as economy flourishes



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2 thoughts on “Food and film help Faroe Islands reverse population trend as economy flourishes

  1. >Remote Danish territory had struggled with the departure of its young people — but now many are returning
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    >Hjordis Susanna i Davastovu prepared to leave London in early 2019 by buying a waterproof and taking vitamin D supplements. After 11 years in the UK, she and her partner were returning home to the Faroe Islands, a tiny north Atlantic archipelago with dark winters and 210 days of rain a year.
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    >“We had been mulling over whether to move back for some time. Then I was headhunted for a job that was too good to turn down,” said i Davastovu, a human resources manager. “The Faroe Islands have changed so much. Ten years ago there were barely any jobs in my field.”
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    >The decision to return to the Faroes is an increasingly common reversal of a historic trend. Like other rural societies, the islands have struggled with the departure of young people, and well-educated women in particular. But over the past nine years something remarkable has happened: the population has kept growing at a record pace.
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    >“Ever since the second world war, we have seen large numbers of young people leaving every year, while only half come back,” said Heri a Rogvi, a Faroese economist who in 2012 co-authored the book Exit Foroyar, or “Exit the Faroe Islands”. “We always hoped it would be possible to reverse the trend. But it’s gone far better than anyone expected.”
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    >Some 53,613 people now live in the Faroe Islands — up 12 per cent in nine years and nearly 25 per cent up from the mid-90s when a tenth of the population left after the economy collapsed.
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    >The islands, a self-governing and largely financially self-sufficient Danish territory, have enjoyed strong economic growth over the past decade. The economy has expanded by about 5 per cent a year on average since 2010. Tourism has started to take off and the dramatic landscapes, which featured in the latest James Bond film, are increasingly attracting production crews.
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    >Tourism has helped to push up standards in the islands’ hospitality sector. “Our hotels and restaurants rely overwhelmingly on foreign customers,” said Johannes Jensen, chief executive of Gist & Vist. The company owns two-starred Michelin eatery Koks that attracts wealthy food enthusiasts from all over the world. Many believe the improving restaurant scene has also helped to convince expats to return.
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    >The Faroes’ whale hunt still taints their image. The islanders have for centuries slaughtered pilot whales (grind in Faroese) and less commonly white-sided dolphins for food. The brutality of a recent cull of almost 1,500 dolphins, when many were stranded for hours before being killed, prompted domestic and international outrage.
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    >“The whale and dolphin hunts are a worrying element for our customers,” said Regin Jacobsen, chief executive of Bakkafrost, the largest Faroese company, which exports farmed salmon to restaurants and supermarkets globally.
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    >Along with the wider salmon-farming industry, Bakkafrost can take some credit for the economy’s rapid growth. Exports of Faroese salmon, which sell at a premium price, have more than doubled in value over the past decade and now make up around one-sixth of the islands’ gross domestic product.
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    >Exports of mackerel, herring and blue whiting, have performed well too — likely helped by the Faroe Islands’ decision to defy the EU, of which it is not a member, and unilaterally increase its mackerel and herring quotas before reaching a more favourable agreement in 2014.
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    >With fast growth comes one of the world’s lowest joblessness rates of just 0.9 per cent. “It is obviously challenging for companies that the unemployment rate has been extremely low for a long time. But it also means it is easier to get a job in the Faroe Islands than in neighbouring countries, which improves immigration rates,” said Marita Rasmussen, chief executive of the local chamber of commerce. The number of foreign nationals has nearly doubled in the past 10 years, although at 4 per cent of the population it remains low.
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    >The Faroese government, local councils and businesses have also made a concerted effort to convince graduates, who receive generous grants to study abroad, to come home. “I wasn’t planning on returning to the Faroes immediately after university,” said Sissal Hofgaard Hestoy, a 28-year-old international business graduate who moved back from Copenhagen in 2020. But while at university, she was offered an informal internship after attending a Faroese job fair for high-skilled expats. “I really enjoyed the work environment, so when they offered me a full-time role after university, I decided to go for it.”
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    >Will the good times last? Many of the structural issues that previously held back population growth remain, such as a deficit of women who leave in greater numbers. Fish and oil prices hold a big sway over the economy. And property costs have surged, pricing many newcomers out of the capital, Torshavn.
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    >A rise in unemployment could spell trouble too. “People are quicker to leave in a downturn than they are to return when the economy is growing,” said a Rogvi. But he believes the generous benefits system that the islands have developed since the 1990s is likely to prevent mass emigration in a crisis: “Overall, the economy is much healthier than previously.”

  2. So about the whale and dolphin hunting.

    Denmark has signed the Bern Convention, but as the Faroe Islands are self-governing (similar to Scotland in the UK), they have been exempt from the law and the local authorities can decide themselves.

    The Danish navy thus has to protect the whale hunters from protestors around the Faroe Islands but the whales everywhere else.

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