Greenland, boasting untapped gas and oil resources, looked to have finally found a way of preventing its most talented citizens leaving for Denmark just a few years ago, but the latest figures show that the brain drain is on the rise again.
With hopes of a commodities boom now less optimistic, there are rising fears that a mass exodus of young people could be catastrophic for the economy in the years to come, particularly as many Greenlanders share the view that the grass is greener in their former colonial master’s land.
One such person is 28-year-old Angunguak Egede, who works as an office clerk in Copenhagen. He left his native Greenland along with some friends back in 2004, making the 4,000-kilometre trip because it was the “normal thing to do”.
Danish cities could offer what their Greenland counterparts could not: a “fast-paced lifestyle”, which many living on the remote autonomous territory had only ever seen pictures of. In addition, there were plenty of job opportunities and recreational activities were far more available, particularly when considering Greenland’s first public swimming pool opened just a year before Angunguak departed.
Angunguak explained that in Nuuk, the capital, the cinema is playing just one movie, while jobs and educational opportunities are also at a premium, adding that there were just far more options in Denmark.
In the past quarter of a century, Greenland’s average annual net emigration stands at around 500 people, the majority of whom have been young and well educated. And with a population of only 55,000 coupled with considerable social problems, the country really feels the full effect of such an exodus. A survey in 2012 revealed that some 62 per cent of teenagers between the ages of 16 and 18 had quit school.
Greenland Prime Minister Kim Kielsen is well aware of the problem, and said recently that they need their youth to want to come back home after being educated abroad. And because of that, they have been offered financial support in repaying loans should they return, while Greenland job fairs have also been staged in many Danish cities, he explained.