Socio-demographic situation in the Arctic

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The population of the Arctic is over 4 million people. Some countries and territories – Iceland, Greenland, the Faeroe Islands – are entirely Arctic areas. In other countries – Russia, Canada, the USA, Norway, Sweden and Finland -  only a small part of the population lives within the region.

The Arctic region population by country: Russia – approximately 2 million 90 thousand, the USA – 649 thousand, Canada– 120 thousand, Denmark: Greenland  – 58 thousand, Iceland – 313 thousand, Denmark: Faeroe Islands – 49 thousand, Norway – approximately 469 thousand, Sweden – about 250 thousand, Finland –  nearly 184 thousand.

The birth rate in the Arctic, although decreasing, is still much higher than in the South of the Arctic countries and in the North of Europe. The death rate is also higher, and the forecasted life expectancy is accordingly lower. In the last decade of the 20th century the outflow of population within all the subpolar areas was exceeding the inflow, which resulted in the negative migration balance.

In those countries where data on indigenous population was collected, the population is as a rule much younger, with prevailing share of the population under 5 years of age.  Depending on the ratio of indigenous and non-indigenous population in each circumpolar area, this factor significantly influences socio-economic conditions of the territory in question. This may be illustrated by the example of Nunavut in Canada, where 85 % of population are Inuit, and only 15 % are non-indigenous inhabitants.

There are more than 30 indigenous peoples of the North in Russia: Saami, Nentsy, Khanty, Mansi, Entsy, Dolgany and others. Their main occupation is hunting, cattle breeding, gathering, and native arts and crafts.

Western analysts note that in the last 15 years there has been the most significant in the region’s history outflow of population from the Russian Arctic (and from the Extreme North of Russia in general), which is still underway. This trend is in stark contrast with tremendous inflow of population from outside countries in the rest of Russia. Norway suffers from similar problems. Among the causes, affecting the demographic situation in the Arctic zone, the most significant is the decline in employment in the fisheries sector.

The current approach to natural resources management in the Arctic is to recognize the property rights, including the rights of indigenous peoples. Resources, once being part of the communal property, belonging to no one in particular, more and more often become subject to legal regulations regarding their possession and use.

Russian Geographical Society