Category Archives: Demographics

The Missing “Missing” Women of the Faroe Islands

Faroese Population: 48,228

Of Which Male: 24,937

Of Which Female: 23,291

Difference: 1,646

A quick look at current Fareose demographics reveals an oddity — the country is short on women. Though the gender imbalance has fallen from a 2012 high (when there were over 2,000 more men than women in the country), there’s still a striking and problematic discrepancy, especially when you consider that the missing women are mostly in their twenties and thirties, prime ages for dating and having children.

Media coverage and common sense would have you believe that the Faroe Islands is facing an enormous problem in the near future, as fewer women means fewer babies. Population growth could stagnate or reverse if no incentives are made for the women to come home, or if new women aren’t found elsewhere, such as from Thailand or the Philippines. In other places, gender imbalances are also known for leading to all sorts of sociological ills, such as increased violence against women.

A young Thai-Faroese woman attends the Joansøka festival in Vágur, Suðuroy, with her boyfriend and another friend.

A young Thai-Faroese woman attends the Joansøka festival in Vágur, Suðuroy, with her boyfriend and another friend.

But since coming to the Faroes a month ago, I’ve seen none of that. Okay, so I’ve seen a few ethnically Asian women here and there. Mostly beautiful, with very cute children. And maybe they’re the reason that I can buy coconut milk and curry paste in even the smallest Faroese grocery store. If that’s the case, I’m grateful to them. I have a hard time living on meat and potatoes alone, even smothered in tasty Faroese gravy.

Otherwise, though, the country seems to be missing its ‘missing’ women. Everyone knows where they women have gone — Denmark, mostly — but where are the holes they’ve left behind?

I’m just not seeing many schools shuttering for lack of children, restless single men, women left behind by all their friends and desperate to get away. Yes, everyone knows someone who has “gone down” to Denmark to study or work, and most families have at least one member away across the water, but it’s young men they’re missing, too. And most are hoping to come home to the Faroes in due time.

Graduates of the Studentaskúlin (junior college) in Eysturoy gather on the beach in Gøtu as part of their graduation ceremony. This year's graduating class was more than two-thirds female.

Graduates of the Studentaskúlin (junior college) in Eysturoy gather on the beach in Gøtu as part of their graduation ceremony. This year’s graduating class was more than two-thirds female.

Most people I’ve asked about the lack of women know that the issue exists, but in an almost abstract sense. They all know women who have gone abroad, and they understand why — to get certain types of educations, pursue certain careers, to marry foreign men with whom they’ve fallen in love —  but they’re not seeing dramatic effects, and they don’t seem too worried about the future. They don’t believe they’re in a society on the verge of collapse, instead they are optimistic that, despite some problems, things are moving in the right direction.

Take this all “with a grain of salt,” because I still need to do some actual background reporting on this issue, gather statistics and hard facts and talk to the experts. So far, I just have my own observations and those of the many women who have so far made time to talk to me.

“No, no, I don’t see it,” says Bára Joensen, a mother of three who lives in Norðragøta. “The only thing is that some are getting foreign women. But I haven’t really noticed that there are more men.”

Jóna Venned walks with a friend outside of the SMS shopping center in Tórshavn. Jóna has been abroad to work in Switzerland and travel and visit friends in several other countries. She will leave next year to study in Denmark, but plans to move back home to the Faroe Islands afterward.

Jóna Venned walks with a friend outside of the SMS shopping center in Tórshavn. Jóna has been abroad to work in Switzerland and travel and visit friends in several other countries. She will leave next year to study in Denmark, but plans to move back home to the Faroe Islands afterward.

“I think the circumstances have changed and it is a lot easier to be a woman in the Faroe Islands compared to what it has been. It is kind of conservative, it has always been conservative,” says Jóna Venned, a 24-year-old from Tórshavn. She says the society is continuing to move towards greater equality in homes and workplaces, and that there is also an effort underway to make it easier for single parents to live in the Faroes.

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