North America :: Greenland
  • Introduction :: Greenland
  • Background:
    Greenland, the world's largest island, is about 79% ice-capped. Vikings reached the island in the 10th century from Iceland; Danish colonization began in the 18th century, and Greenland became an integral part of the Danish Realm in 1953. It joined the European Community (now the EU) with Denmark in 1973 but withdrew in 1985 over a dispute centered on stringent fishing quotas. Greenland remains a member of the Overseas Countries and Territories Association of the EU. Greenland was granted self-government in 1979 by the Danish parliament; the law went into effect the following year. Greenland voted in favor of increased self-rule in November 2008 and acquired greater responsibility for internal affairs when the Act on Greenland Self-Government was signed into law in June 2009. Denmark, however, continues to exercise control over several policy areas on behalf of Greenland, including foreign affairs, security, and financial policy in consultation with Greenland's Self-Rule Government.
  • Geography :: Greenland
  • Location:
    Northern North America, island between the Arctic Ocean and the North Atlantic Ocean, northeast of Canada
    Geographic coordinates:
    72 00 N, 40 00 W
    Map references:
    Arctic Region
    Area:
    total: 2,166,086 sq km
    land: 2,166,086 sq km (approximately 1,710,000 sq km ice-covered)
    country comparison to the world: 13
    Area - comparative:
    slightly more than three times the size of Texas
    Land boundaries:
    0 km
    Coastline:
    44,087 km
    Maritime claims:
    territorial sea: 3 nm
    continental shelf: 200 nm or agreed boundaries or median line
    exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm or agreed boundaries or median line
    Climate:
    arctic to subarctic; cool summers, cold winters
    Terrain:
    flat to gradually sloping icecap covers all but a narrow, mountainous, barren, rocky coast
    Elevation:
    mean elevation: 1,792 m
    elevation extremes: 0 m lowest point: Atlantic Ocean
    3694 highest point: Gunnbjorn Fjeld
    Natural resources:
    coal, iron ore, lead, zinc, molybdenum, diamonds, gold, platinum, niobium, tantalite, uranium, fish, seals, whales, hydropower, possible oil and gas
    Land use:
    agricultural land: 0.6% (2011 est.)
    arable land: 0% (2011 est.) / permanent crops: 0% (2011 est.) / permanent pasture: 0.6% (2011 est.)
    forest: 0% (2011 est.)
    other: 99.4% (2011 est.)
    Irrigated land:
    NA
    Population distribution:
    settlement concentrated on the southwest shoreline, with limited settlements scattered along the remaining coast; interior is uninhabited
    Natural hazards:
    continuous permafrost over northern two-thirds of the island
    Environment - current issues:
    especially vulnerable to climate change and disruption of the Arctic environment; preservation of the Inuit traditional way of life, including whaling and seal hunting
    Geography - note:
    dominates North Atlantic Ocean between North America and Europe; sparse population confined to small settlements along coast; close to one-quarter of the population lives in the capital, Nuuk; world's second largest ice sheet after that of Antarctica covering an area of 1.71 million sq km (660,000 sq mi) or about 79% of the island, and containing 2.85 million cu km (684 thousand cu mi) of ice (this is almost 7% of all of the world's fresh water); if all this ice were converted to liquid water, one estimate is that it would be sufficient to raise the height of the world's oceans by 7.2 m (24 ft)
  • People and Society :: Greenland
  • Population:
    57,691 (July 2018 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 206
    Nationality:
    noun: Greenlander(s)
    adjective: Greenlandic
    Ethnic groups:
    Inuit 88%, Danish and other 12% (2010 est.)
    Languages:
    Greenlandic (East Inuit) (official), Danish (official), English
    Religions:
    Evangelical Lutheran, traditional Inuit spiritual beliefs
    Age structure:
    0-14 years: 21% (male 6,151 /female 5,962)
    15-24 years: 15.1% (male 4,388 /female 4,321)
    25-54 years: 40.83% (male 12,349 /female 11,209)
    55-64 years: 13.5% (male 4,259 /female 3,529)
    65 years and over: 9.57% (male 2,944 /female 2,579) (2018 est.)
    population pyramid: population pyramid
    Median age:
    total: 34 years
    male: 35 years
    female: 32.9 years (2018 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 89
    Population growth rate:
    -0.04% (2018 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 200
    Birth rate:
    14.3 births/1,000 population (2018 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 133
    Death rate:
    8.8 deaths/1,000 population (2018 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 69
    Net migration rate:
    -6 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 197
    Population distribution:
    settlement concentrated on the southwest shoreline, with limited settlements scattered along the remaining coast; interior is uninhabited
    Urbanization:
    urban population: 86.8% of total population (2018)
    rate of urbanization: 0.42% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)
    Major urban areas - population:
    18,000 NUUK (capital) (2018)
    Sex ratio:
    at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female (2017 est.)
    0-14 years: 1.03 male(s)/female (2017 est.)
    15-24 years: 1.02 male(s)/female (2017 est.)
    25-54 years: 1.1 male(s)/female (2017 est.)
    55-64 years: 1.26 male(s)/female (2017 est.)
    65 years and over: 1.15 male(s)/female (2017 est.)
    total population: 1.1 male(s)/female (2017 est.)
    Infant mortality rate:
    total: 8.7 deaths/1,000 live births (2018 est.)
    male: 9.9 deaths/1,000 live births (2018 est.)
    female: 7.4 deaths/1,000 live births (2018 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 147
    Life expectancy at birth:
    total population: 72.9 years (2018 est.)
    male: 70.2 years (2018 est.)
    female: 75.8 years (2018 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 145
    Total fertility rate:
    1.97 children born/woman (2018 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 122
    Physicians density:
    1.73 physicians/1,000 population (2014)
    Hospital bed density:
    8.2 beds/1,000 population (2015)
    Drinking water source:
    improved: urban: 100% of population (2015 est.)
    rural: 100% of population (2015 est.)
    total: 100% of population (2015 est.)
    unimproved: urban: 0% of population (2015 est.)
    rural: 0% of population (2015 est.)
    total: 0% of population (2015 est.)
    Sanitation facility access:
    improved: urban: 100% of population (2015 est.)
    rural: 100% of population (2015 est.)
    total: 100% of population (2015 est.)
    unimproved: urban: 0% of population (2015 est.)
    rural: 0% of population (2015 est.)
    total: 0% of population (2015 est.)
    HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
    NA
    HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
    NA
    HIV/AIDS - deaths:
    NA
    Literacy:
    definition: age 15 and over can read and write (2015 est.)
    total population: 100% (2015 est.)
    male: 100% (2015 est.)
    female: 100% (2015 est.)
  • Government :: Greenland
  • Country name:
    conventional long form: none
    conventional short form: Greenland
    local long form: none
    local short form: Kalaallit Nunaat

    note: named by Norwegian adventurer Erik THORVALDSSON (Erik the Red) in A.D. 985 in order to entice settlers to the island

    Dependency status:
    part of the Kingdom of Denmark; self-governing overseas administrative division of Denmark since 1979
    Government type:
    parliamentary democracy (Parliament of Greenland or Inatsisartut)
    Capital:
    name: Nuuk (Godthaab)
    geographic coordinates: 64 11 N, 51 45 W
    time difference: UTC-3 (2 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
    daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October

    note: Greenland has four time zones

    Administrative divisions:
    5 municipalities (kommuner, singular kommune); Avannaata, Kujalleq, Qeqertalik, Qeqqata, Sermersooq

    note: Northeast Greenland National Park (Kalaallit Nunaanni Nuna Eqqissisimatitaq) and the Thule Air Base in Pituffik (in northwest Greenland) are two unincorporated areas; the national park's 972,000 sq km - about 46% of the island - makes it the largest national park in the world and also the most northerly

    Independence:
    none (extensive self-rule as part of the Kingdom of Denmark; foreign affairs is the responsibility of Denmark, but Greenland actively participates in international agreements relating to Greenland)
    National holiday:
    National Day, June 21; note - marks the summer solstice and the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere
    Constitution:
    previous 1953 (Greenland established as a constituency in the Danish constitution), 1979 (Greenland Home Rule Act); latest 21 June 2009 (Greenland Self-Government Act) (2018)
    Citizenship:
    see Denmark
    Suffrage:
    18 years of age; universal
    Executive branch:
    chief of state: Queen MARGRETHE II of Denmark (since 14 January 1972), represented by High Commissioner Mikaela ENGELL (since April 2011)
    head of government: Premier Kim KIELSEN (since 30 September 2014)
    cabinet: Self-rule Government (Naalakkersuisut) elected by the Parliament (Inatsisartut) on the basis of the strength of parties
    elections/appointments: the monarchy is hereditary; high commissioner appointed by the monarch; premier indirectly elected by Parliament for a 4-year term
    election results: Kim KIELSEN elected premier; Parliament vote - Kim KIELSEN (S) 27.2%, Sara OLSVIG (IA) 25.5%, Randi Vestergaard EVALDSEN (D) 19.5%, other 27.8% note - general election 24 April 2018 with KIELSEN (Siumut party) retaining largest number of seats (9)
    Legislative branch:
    description: unicameral Parliament or Inatsisartut (31 seats; members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by proportional representation vote to serve 4-year terms) (2013)
    elections: last held on 24 April 2018 (next to be held by 2022) (2013)
    election results: percent of vote by party - S 27.2%, IA 25.5%, D 19.5%, PN 13.4%, A 5.9%, SA 4.1%, NQ 3.4% other 1%; seats by party - S 9, IA 8, D 6, PN 4, A 2, SA 1, NQ 1 (2013)

    note: 2 representatives were elected to the Danish Parliament on 18 June 2015 (next to be held by June 2019); percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - IA 1, S 1

    Judicial branch:
    highest courts: High Court of Greenland (consists of the presiding professional judge and 2 lay assessors); note - appeals beyond the High Court of Greenland can be heard by the Supreme Court (in Copenhagen)
    judge selection and term of office: judges appointed by the monarch upon the recommendation of the Judicial Appointments Council, a 6-member independent body of judges and lawyers; judges appointed for life with retirement at age 70
    subordinate courts: Court of Greenland; 18 district or magistrates' courts
    Political parties and leaders:
    Collabotation Party (Samarbejdspartiet) or SA [Tillie MARTINUSSEN]
    Democrats Party (Demokraatit) or D [Randi VESTERGAARD EVALDSEN]
    Forward Party (Siumut) or S [Kim KIELSEN]
    Inuit Community (Inuit Ataqatigiit) or IA [Sara OLSVIG]
    Nunatta Qitornai or NQ [Vittus QUJAUKITSOQ]
    Partii Naleraq or PN [Hans ENOKSEN]
    Solidarity Party (Atassut) or A [Siverth Karl HEILMANN]
    International organization participation:
    Arctic Council, ICC, NC, NIB, UPU
    Diplomatic representation in the US:
    none (self-governing overseas administrative division of Denmark): note - Greenland has an office in the Danish Embassy to the US; it also has offices in the Danish consulates of Chicago and New York
    Diplomatic representation from the US:
    none (self-governing overseas administrative division of Denmark)
    Flag description:
    two equal horizontal bands of white (top) and red with a large disk slightly to the hoist side of center - the top half of the disk is red, the bottom half is white; the design represents the sun reflecting off a field of ice; the colors are the same as those of the Danish flag and symbolize Greenland's links to the Kingdom of Denmark
    National symbol(s):
    polar bear; national colors: red, white
    National anthem:
    name: "Nunarput utoqqarsuanngoravit" ("Our Country, Who's Become So Old" also translated as "You Our Ancient Land")
    lyrics/music: Henrik LUND/Jonathan PETERSEN

    note: adopted 1916; the government also recognizes "Nuna asiilasooq" as a secondary anthem

  • Economy :: Greenland
  • Economy - overview:

    Greenland’s economy depends on exports of shrimp and fish, and on a substantial subsidy from the Danish Government. Fish account for over 90% of its exports, subjecting the economy to price fluctuations. The subsidy from the Danish Government is budgeted to be about $535 million in 2017, more than 50% of government revenues, and 25% of GDP.

    The economy is expanding after a period of decline. The economy contracted between 2012 and 2014, grew by 1.7% in 2015 and by 7.7%in 2016. The expansion has been driven by larger quotas for shrimp, the predominant Greenlandic export, and also by increased activity in the construction sector, especially in Nuuk, the capital. Private consumption and tourism also are contributing to GDP growth more than in previous years. Tourism in Greenland grew annually around 20% in 2015 and 2016, largely a result of increasing numbers of cruise lines now operating in Greenland's western and southern waters during the peak summer tourism season.

    The public sector, including publicly owned enterprises and the municipalities, plays a dominant role in Greenland's economy. During the last decade the Greenland Self Rule Government pursued conservative fiscal and monetary policies, but public pressure has increased for better schools, health care, and retirement systems. The budget was in deficit in 2014 and 2016, but public debt remains low at about 5% of GDP. The government plans a balanced budget for the 2017–20 period.

    Significant challenges face the island, including low levels of qualified labor, geographic dispersion, lack of industry diversification, the long-term sustainability of the public budget, and a declining population due to emigration. Hydrocarbon exploration has ceased with declining oil prices. The island has potential for natural resource exploitation with rare-earth, uranium, and iron ore mineral projects proposed, but a lack of infrastructure hinders development.

    GDP (purchasing power parity):
    $2.413 billion (2015 est.)
    $2.24 billion (2014 est.)
    $2.203 billion (2013 est.)

    note: data are in 2015 US dollars

    country comparison to the world: 193
    GDP (official exchange rate):
    $2.221 billion (2015 est.) (2015 est.)
    GDP - real growth rate:
    7.7% (2016 est.)
    1.7% (2015 est.)
    -0.8% (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 11
    GDP - per capita (PPP):
    $41,800 (2015 est.)
    $38,800 (2014 est.)
    $38,500 (2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 44
    GDP - composition, by end use:
    household consumption: 68.1% (2015 est.)
    government consumption: 28% (2015 est.)
    investment in fixed capital: 14.3% (2015 est.)
    investment in inventories: -13.9% (2015 est.)
    exports of goods and services: 18.2% (2015 est.)
    imports of goods and services: -28.6% (2015 est.)
    GDP - composition, by sector of origin:
    agriculture: 15.9% (2015 est.)
    industry: 10.1% (2015 est.)
    services: 73.9% (2015)
    Agriculture - products:
    sheep, cow, reindeer, fish, shellfish
    Industries:
    fish processing (mainly shrimp and Greenland halibut); anorthosite and ruby mining; handicrafts, hides and skins, small shipyards
    Industrial production growth rate:
    NA
    Labor force:
    26,840 (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 207
    Labor force - by occupation:
    agriculture: 73.9% (2015)
    industry: 10.1% (2015 est.)
    services: 73.9% (2015 est.)
    Unemployment rate:
    9.1% (2015 est.)
    10.3% (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 132
    Population below poverty line:
    16.2% (2015 est.)
    Household income or consumption by percentage share:
    lowest 10%: NA
    highest 10%: NA
    Distribution of family income - Gini index:
    33.9 (2015 est.)
    34.3 (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 107
    Budget:
    revenues: 1.719 billion (2016 est.)
    expenditures: 1.594 billion (2016 est.)
    Taxes and other revenues:
    77.4% (of GDP) (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 3
    Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-):
    5.6% (of GDP) (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 5
    Public debt:
    13% of GDP (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 196
    Fiscal year:
    calendar year
    Inflation rate (consumer prices):
    0.3% (January 2017 est.)
    1.2% (January 2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 19
    Central bank discount rate:

    NA

    Exports:
    $407.1 million (2015 est.)
    $599.7 million (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 183
    Exports - commodities:
    fish and fish products 91% (2015 est.)
    Exports - partners:
    Denmark 82.5%, Iceland 4.4% (2017)
    Imports:
    $783.5 million (2015 est.)
    $866.1 million (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 188
    Imports - commodities:
    machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods, food, petroleum products
    Imports - partners:
    Denmark 69.7%, Sweden 10.6% (2017)
    Debt - external:
    $36.4 million (2010)
    $58 million (2009)
    country comparison to the world: 197
    Exchange rates:
    Danish kroner (DKK) per US dollar -
    6.586 (2017 est.)
    6.7309 (2016 est.)
    6.7309 (2015 est.)
    6.7326 (2014 est.)
    5.6125 (2013 est.)
  • Energy :: Greenland
  • Electricity access:
    electrification - total population: 100% (2016)
    Electricity - production:
    426.9 million kWh (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 168
    Electricity - consumption:
    317.5 million kWh (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 181
    Electricity - exports:
    0 kWh (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 140
    Electricity - imports:
    0 kWh (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 150
    Electricity - installed generating capacity:
    187,000 kW (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 164
    Electricity - from fossil fuels:
    51.3% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 149
    Electricity - from nuclear fuels:
    0% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 100
    Electricity - from hydroelectric plants:
    48.7% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 42
    Electricity - from other renewable sources:
    0% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 186
    Crude oil - production:
    0 bbl/day (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 138
    Crude oil - exports:
    0 bbl/day (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 128
    Crude oil - imports:
    0 bbl/day (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 132
    Crude oil - proved reserves:
    0 bbl (1 January 2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 141
    Refined petroleum products - production:
    0 bbl/day (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 150
    Refined petroleum products - consumption:
    6,000 bbl/day (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 171
    Refined petroleum products - exports:
    0 bbl/day (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 160
    Refined petroleum products - imports:
    4,633 bbl/day (2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 168
    Natural gas - production:
    0 cu m (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 140
    Natural gas - consumption:
    0 cu m (2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 152
    Natural gas - exports:
    0 cu m (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 112
    Natural gas - imports:
    0 cu m (2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 133
    Natural gas - proved reserves:
    0 cu m (1 January 2014 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 144
    Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy:
    520,400 Mt (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 178
  • Communications :: Greenland
  • Telephones - fixed lines:
    total subscriptions: 16,000 (July 2016 est.)
    subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 28 (July 2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 186
    Telephones - mobile cellular:
    total subscriptions: 61,000 (July 2016 est.)
    subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 106 (July 2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 199
    Telephone system:
    general assessment: adequate domestic and international service provided by satellite, cables, and microwave radio relay; totally digital since 1995 (2015)
    domestic: microwave radio relay and satellite; the fundamental telecommunications infrastructure consists of a digital radio link from Nanortalik in south Greenland to Uummannaq in north Greenland; satellites cover north and east Greenland for domestic and foreign telecommunications; a marine cable connects south and west Greenland to the rest of the world, extending from Nuuk and Qaqortoq to Canada and Iceland (2015)
    international: country code - 299; satellite earth stations - 15 (12 Intelsat, 1 Eutelsat, 2 Americom GE-2 (all Atlantic Ocean)) (2015)
    Broadcast media:
    the Greenland Broadcasting Company provides public radio and TV services throughout the island with a broadcast station and a series of repeaters; a few private local TV and radio stations; Danish public radio rebroadcasts are available (2015)
    Internet country code:
    .gl
    Internet users:
    total: 39,544 (July 2016 est.)
    percent of population: 68.5% (July 2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 199
  • Transportation :: Greenland
  • National air transport system:
    number of registered air carriers: 1 (registered in Denmark) (2015)
    inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 8 (registered in Denmark) (2015)
    Civil aircraft registration country code prefix:
    OY-H (2016)
    Airports:
    15 (2013)
    country comparison to the world: 146
    Airports - with paved runways:
    total: 10 (2017)
    2,438 to 3,047 m: 2 (2017)
    1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2017)
    914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2017)
    under 914 m: 6 (2017)
    Airports - with unpaved runways:
    total: 5 (2013)
    1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2013)
    914 to 1,523 m: 2 (2013)
    under 914 m: 2 (2013)
    Roadways:

    note: although there are short roads in towns, there are no roads between towns; inter-urban transport is either by sea or by air

    Merchant marine:
    total: 8 (2017)
    by type: general cargo 1, other 7 (2017)
    country comparison to the world: 157
    Ports and terminals:
    major seaport(s): Sisimiut
  • Military and Security :: Greenland
  • Military branches:
    no regular military forces or conscription; the Government of Denmark has responsibility for defense; as such the Danish military’s Joint Arctic Command in Nuuk is responsible for territorial defense of Greenland (2016)
    Military - note:
    defense is the responsibility of Denmark
  • Transnational Issues :: Greenland
  • Disputes - international:
    managed dispute between Canada and Denmark over Hans Island in the Kennedy Channel between Canada's Ellesmere Island and GreenlandDenmark (Greenland) and Norway have made submissions to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) and Russia is collecting additional data to augment its 2001 CLCS submission