The exodus of women has become a social problem for the Faroe Islands. Many young Faroese women leave the small island nation in the North Atlantic to study in cities such as Copenhagen, Oslo and London, more than half of them never to return. 61% of all who study abroad are women and 39% are men. In 2011, in the age group 20-24 years twice as many women than men moved abroad.
The number of women of childbearing age falls dramatically. By 2023, the population could fall from 50 000 to 37 000 which is a decrease of more than 20%, according to Hermann Oskarsson, history researcher at the University in Torshavn. In 2011 there were about 1,900 fewer women than men aged 10-59. According to The World Factbook, only 14 countries in the world have a greater imbalance in gender proportion than the Faroe Islands. The pattern of women leaving rural areas has been noticed across the Nordic region as well as in the eastern part of Germany and Alaska in recent years, but a major difference is that in these places people tend move domestically.
Fishing, which is the main industry in the Faroe Islands is a tradition-bound industry, controlled by men. In addition, there are commercial jobs related to fishing like fish farming, sea and service industry. A rather traditional way of living and a general lack of gender equality seem to be another reason. Many women see no future in small communities where traditionally male-dominated activities such as hunting, fishing, farming and industrial work are greatly valued. Job opportunities for academics and for people with higher education are few. According to Erika Hayfield, a migration researcher from the Faroe Islands, many young women experience the culture as very masculine.
“Like in many other regions of the world, the traditional role of women is reduced to the role of the housewife. The individual municipalities in the Faroe Islands are not able to adapt to the changing times and to address the current needs of young women”, claims Kristín Àstgeirsdóttir, the director of the Icelandic Centre for Gender Equality (interview with NIKK – Nordic Information on Gender).
How does this demographic change influence and challenge the society and the men left behind?
Work in progress…