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Statistically speaking, Greenland’s population growth in 2016 was insignificant.
Figures released last week by Kalaallit Nunaanni Naatsorsueqqissaartarfik, the national statistics agency, in a publication headlined ‘Unchanged population’, show that the country’s population rose by 13 individuals in 2016 (bringing the number to 55,860).
The figures, despite their lack of statistical significance, were relevant in other ways. As in recent years, more people were born (830) than died (487). Known as the natural increase, this was lower than in 2015, but, when immigration is figured in, 2016 turned out to be the first time in five years the population grew.
After reaching a high point of 56,969 in 2005, the number of Greenlanders has been on a general decline ever since. The 2015 population figure was the lowest in 20 years. (See chart at right.)
And while the ‘unchanged’ description applies to the population as a whole, the past year saw some noteworthy trends, including a persistent gap between the size of the male and female populations (29,493 men, compared with 26,367 women), although 2016 saw a slight improvement in this figure.
More people also continued to emigrate than immigrate, though the discrepancy was smaller than in recent years, as fewer people left the country.
The foreign-born population (born outside the kingdom of Denmark) has risen steadily since 2006, and now stands at 1,057. More than half (670) come from North America and Europe, but the largest group, making up 15% of foreigners, comes from the Philippines (195). The second largest comes from Thailand (176).
For Nuuk, the numbers would seem to support the need for a new housing development unveiled last week in preparation for significant population growth in the coming two decades.
Nuuk’s population grew by 284 last year, mostly through births. While this growth was less than the 316 people the city added in 2015, it continues a string of unbroken growth that goes back to 1977, the first year Kalaallit Nunaanni Naatsorsueqqissaartarfik began record keeping. At that time, Nuuk had 8,545 residents or 17% of the population. Today, there are 17,316 Nuummiut, or 31% of the population.
Nuuk’s growth stands in contrast to population loss in other areas, most notably settlements, populated places that have between 50 and 500 residents, which continued a decline that has seen the number of residents fall from over 11,000 in 1977 to 7,356 last year. Settlement populations in three of the country’s four municipal districts shrunk considerably last year.
Socially speaking, the changes may not have been so insignificant after all.