The Greenlandic finance minister Palle Christiansen has declared the steady exodus of manpower from the country as the biggest hurdle facing Greenland’s ongoing quest for independence.
While acknowledging that other factors have hindered short-term prospects, Christiansen suggested that emigration trends would seriously undermine long-term hopes for the autonomous country. According to figures published in Sermitsiaq, 2008 saw 638 people depart the country on a permanent basis. This is consistent with the record level reached in 2006, when 644 out of a total population of around 50,000 emigrated abroad.
Christiansen expressed a desire to instigate a range of measures designed to lure Greenlanders back home, predominantly those young people who leave to study in Denmark. At present, a mere half return home at the conclusion of their education but student groups have confirmed that the prospect of greater autonomy has resulted in a forecasted increase in returns. Employment inside Greenland remains the biggest hurdle to repatriation. Christiansen has also identified housing as an additional barrier, but hopes to address the issue by constructing several new estates.
Greenlandic Students Association in Denmark head, Anne Berit Nielsen, has claimed that childcare and family issues also compounded the reluctance to return for many Greenlandic youths. Herself a medical student, Nielsen said simply that “there are just a lot more opportunities in the Danish health service.” Nielsen advised against adopting the proposals of her homeland’s lawmakers to make émigrés repay education subsidies.
Christiansen empathised with those students in Denmark but hoped future decisions would be encouraged by a sense of national identity. “If you’re settling down in Denmark, you can’t be a part of building our country. To them, I say: I hear what you are saying but you need to come home and help us.”