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Since the 1960s, Greenland has, with the help of Denmark, developed into a modern welfare state, where traditional hunting weapons, navigation and communication techniques have been replaced by Western technology. Almost all consumer goods, machinery, food, live animals and petroleum products are imported mainly from Denmark. These products are heavily subsidised by Denmark to remain affordable for the Greenlandic population. Other important import partners are Sweden and the Netherlands. Important export partners are Denmark, England China and Japan. Today, Greenland's standard of living is comparable to that of mainland Europe. Unemployment is just under 10% according to government figures. Two thirds of the working population work in the public sector.

Fishing is the most important branch of the Greenlandic economy. About 150,000 tonnes of fish are caught annually. Fish and fish products constitute almost all exports (95%) and a quarter of the population depends on them. The main catch is halibut, shrimps and threshing, as well as salmon, haddock and cod. Cod fishing is currently minimal due to overfishing and structurally lower seawater temperatures.

Sheep and reindeer farming is another important industry. There are about eighty sheep farms (20,000 animals) and two reindeer farms. Bird, seal, whale and polar bear hunting are also carried out, but these activities are not important for the economy. Whale hunting is expressly permitted only for subsistence purposes.

Greenland has many precious metals and often rare ores in its soil, such as molybdenum, scheelite, niobium, ilmenite, gold and platinum. Oil is being sought in the seabed under Davis Strait. Due to the extreme conditions on the island, profitable exploitation is not yet possible. It is expected to take another five to twenty years.

Streets and roads all end at the edge of the village or town and there is no road from any place on Greenland to any other place. The dog sledge is therefore still an important means of transport. Illustrative is that the town Ilulissat has about 4,500 inhabitants, has about 90 cars and no less than 6,000 dogs.


Stadler, H. / Groenland

Swaney, D. / Iceland, Greenland & Faroe Islands
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Last updated June 2024
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