Early timber buildings have survived in the Tinganes area of Torshavn, which contains government offices and shops. Tinganes is the historic site of the Faroese landsstyri (government); the name means "parliament jetty" or "parliament point" in Faroese.
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Introduction

Background

The population of the Faroe Islands, a self-governing dependency of Denmark, is largely descended from Viking settlers who arrived in the 9th century. The islands have been connected politically to Denmark since the 14th century. The Home Rule Act of 1948 granted a high degree of self-Government to the Faroese, who have autonomy over most internal affairs and external trade, while Denmark is responsible for justice, defense, and some foreign affairs. The Faroe Islands are not part of the European Union.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Geography

Location

Northern Europe, island group between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, about halfway between Iceland and Norway

Geographic coordinates

62 00 N, 7 00 W

Area

total: 1,393 sq km

land: 1,393 sq km

water: 0 sq km (some lakes and streams)

country comparison to the world: 182

Area - comparative

eight times the size of Washington, DC

Land boundaries

total: 0 km

Coastline

1,117 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

continental shelf: 200 nm or agreed boundaries or median line

exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm or agreed boundaries or median line

Climate

mild winters, cool summers; usually overcast; foggy, windy

Terrain

rugged, rocky, some low peaks; cliffs along most of coast

Elevation

highest point: Slaettaratindur 882 m

lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m

Natural resources

fish, whales, hydropower, possible oil and gas

Land use

agricultural land: 2.1% (2018 est.)

arable land: 2.1% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 0% (2018 est.)

forest: 0.1% (2018 est.)

other: 97.8% (2018 est.)

Population distribution

the island of Streymoy is by far the most populous with over 40% of the population; it has approximately twice as many inhabitants as Eysturoy, the second most populous island; seven of the inhabited islands have fewer than 100 people

Natural hazards

strong winds and heavy rains can occur throughout the year

Geography - note

archipelago of 17 inhabited islands and one uninhabited island, and a few uninhabited islets; strategically located along important sea lanes in northeastern Atlantic; precipitous terrain limits habitation to small coastal lowlands

People and Society

Nationality

noun: Faroese (singular and plural)

adjective: Faroese

Ethnic groups

Faroese 85.3% (Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon descent), Danish 8.3%, other Nordic 1.4%, other 4.5% (includes Filipino, Poland, Romanian) (2022 est.)

note: data represent respondents by country of birth

Languages

Faroese 93.8% (derived from Old Norse), Danish 3.2%, other 3% (2011 est.)

note:  data represent population by primary language

Religions

Christian 89.3% (predominantly Evangelical Lutheran), other 1%, none 3.8%, unspecified 6% (2011 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 19.69% (male 5,247/female 4,920)

15-24 years: 13.89% (male 3,708/female 3,465)

25-54 years: 37.01% (male 10,277/female 8,828)

55-64 years: 12% (male 3,199/female 2,996)

65 years and over: 17.41% (male 4,352/female 4,636) (2020 est.)

2022 population pyramid
2022 population pyramid

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: NA

youth dependency ratio: NA

elderly dependency ratio: NA

potential support ratio: NA

Median age

total: 37.2 years

male: 36.9 years

female: 37.7 years (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 72

Birth rate

14.94 births/1,000 population (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 116

Death rate

8.63 deaths/1,000 population (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 71

Net migration rate

0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 88

Population distribution

the island of Streymoy is by far the most populous with over 40% of the population; it has approximately twice as many inhabitants as Eysturoy, the second most populous island; seven of the inhabited islands have fewer than 100 people

Urbanization

urban population: 42.8% of total population (2022)

rate of urbanization: 0.89% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Major urban areas - population

21,000 TORSHAVN (capital) (2018)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.07 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.07 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.09 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 1.17 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 1.09 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.77 male(s)/female

total population: 1.08 male(s)/female (2022 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: 5.99 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 6.61 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 5.32 deaths/1,000 live births (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 171

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 81.26 years

male: 78.73 years

female: 83.97 years (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 42

Drinking water source

improved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: 100% of population

unimproved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: 0% of population (2020)

Physicians density

2.62 physicians/1,000 population (2016)

Hospital bed density

4.2 beds/1,000 population (2016)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: NA

unimproved: urban: NA

rural: NA

total: NA

Literacy

total population: NA

male: NA

female: NA

Environment

Environment - current issues

coastal erosion, landslides and rockfalls, flash flooding, wind storms; oil spills

Air pollutants

carbon dioxide emissions: 0.63 megatons (2016 est.)

Climate

mild winters, cool summers; usually overcast; foggy, windy

Land use

agricultural land: 2.1% (2018 est.)

arable land: 2.1% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 0% (2018 est.)

forest: 0.1% (2018 est.)

other: 97.8% (2018 est.)

Urbanization

urban population: 42.8% of total population (2022)

rate of urbanization: 0.89% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 61,000 tons (2014 est.)

municipal solid waste recycled annually: 40,870 tons (2012 est.)

percent of municipal solid waste recycled: 67% (2012 est.)

Total renewable water resources

0 cubic meters (2017 est.)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: none

conventional short form: Faroe Islands

local long form: none

local short form: Foroyar

etymology: the archipelago's name may derive from the Old Norse word "faer," meaning sheep

Government type

parliamentary democracy (Faroese Parliament); part of the Kingdom of Denmark

Dependency status

part of the Kingdom of Denmark; self-governing overseas administrative division of Denmark since 1948

Capital

name: Torshavn

geographic coordinates: 62 00 N, 6 46 W

time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October

etymology: the meaning in Danish is "Thor's harbor"

Administrative divisions

part of the Kingdom of Denmark; self-governing overseas administrative division of Denmark; there are 29 first-order municipalities (kommunur, singular - kommuna) Eidhi, Eystur, Famjin, Fuglafjordhur, Fugloy, Hov, Husavik, Hvalba, Hvannasund, Klaksvik, Kunoy, Kvivik, Nes, Porkeri, Runavik, Sandur, Sjovar, Skalavik, Skopun, Skuvoy, Sorvagur, Sumba, Sunda, Torshavn, Tvoroyri, Vagar, Vagur, Vestmanna, Vidhareidhi

Independence

none (part of the Kingdom of Denmark; self-governing overseas administrative division of Denmark)

National holiday

Olaifest (Olavsoka) (commemorates the death in battle of King OLAF II of Norway, later St. OLAF), 29 July (1030)

Constitution

history: 5 June 1953 (Danish Constitution), 23 March 1948 (Home Rule Act), and 24 June 2005 (Takeover Act) serve as the Faroe Islands' constitutional position in the Unity of the Realm

amendments: see entry for Denmark

Legal system

the laws of Denmark apply where applicable

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 Lene Moyell JOHANSEN, chief administrative officer (since 15 May 2017)

head of government: Prime Minister Bardur A STEIG NIELSEN (since 16 September 2019)

cabinet: Landsstyri appointed by the prime minister

elections/appointments: the monarchy is hereditary; high commissioner appointed by the monarch; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or majority coalition usually elected prime minister by the Faroese Parliament; election last held on 31 August 2019 (next to be held in 2023)

election results: 2019: Bardur A STEIGNIELSEN elected prime minister; Parliament vote - NA

2015:  Aksel V. JOHANNESEN elected prime minister; Parliament vote - NA

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Faroese Parliament or Logting (33 seats; members directly elected in a single nationwide constituency by proportional representation vote; members serve 4-year terms)
the Faroe Islands elect 2 members to the Danish Parliament to serve 4-year terms

elections: Faroese Parliament - last held on 31 August 2019 (next to be held in 2023)
Faroese seats in the Danish Parliament last held on 5 June 2019 (next to be held no later than June 2023)

election results: Faroese Parliament percent of vote by party - People's Party 24.2%, JF 21.2%, Union Party 21.2%, Republic 18.2%, Center Party 6%, Progress Party 6%, Self-Government Party 3%, seats by party - People's Party 8, JF 7, Union Party 7, Republic 6, Center Party 2, Progress Party 2, Self-Government Party 1, composition - men 25, women 8; percent of women 24.2%
Faroese seats in Danish Parliament - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - JF 1, Republic 1; composition - men 2

Judicial branch

highest court(s): Faroese Court or Raett (Rett - Danish) decides both civil and criminal cases; the Court is part of the Danish legal system

subordinate courts: Court of the First Instance or Tribunal de Premiere Instance; Court of Administrative Law or Tribunal Administratif; Mixed Commercial Court; Land Court

Political parties and leaders

Center Party (Midflokkurin) [Jenis av RANA]
People's Party (Folkaflokkurin) [Jorgen NICLASEN]
Progress Party (Framsokn) [Ruth VANG]
Republic (Tjodveldi) [Hogni HOYDAL] (formerly the Republican Party)
Self-Government Party (Sjalvstyri or Sjalvstyrisflokkurin) [Jogvan SKORHEIM]
Social Democratic Party (Javnadarflokkurin) or JF [Aksel V. JOHANNESEN]
Union Party (Sambandsflokkurin) [Bardur A STEIG NIELSEN]

International organization participation

Arctic Council, IMO (associate), NC, NIB, UNESCO (associate), UPU

Diplomatic representation in the US

none (self-governing overseas administrative division of Denmark)

Diplomatic representation from the US

embassy: none (self-governing overseas administrative division of Denmark)

Flag description

white with a red cross outlined in blue extending to the edges of the flag; the vertical part of the cross is shifted toward the hoist side in the style of the Dannebrog (Danish flag); referred to as Merkid, meaning "the banner" or "the mark," the flag resembles those of neighboring Iceland and Norway, and uses the same three colors - but in a different sequence; white represents the clear Faroese sky, as well as the foam of the waves; red and blue are traditional Faroese colors

note: the blue on the flag is a lighter blue (azure) than that found on the flags of Iceland or Norway

National symbol(s)

ram; national colors: red, white, blue

National anthem

name: "Mitt alfagra land" (My Fairest Land)

lyrics/music: Simun av SKAROI/Peter ALBERG

note: adopted 1948; the anthem is also known as "Tu alfagra land mitt" (Thou Fairest Land of Mine); as a self-governing overseas administrative division of Denmark, the Faroe Islands are permitted their own national anthem

Economy

Economic overview

The Faroese economy has experienced a period of significant growth since 2011, due to higher fish prices and increased salmon farming and catches in the pelagic fisheries. Fishing has been the main source of income for the Faroe Islands since the late 19th century, but dependence on fishing makes the economy vulnerable to price fluctuations. Nominal GDP, measured in current prices, grew 5.6% in 2015 and 6.8% in 2016. GDP growth was forecast at 6.2% in 2017, slowing to 0.5% in 2018, due to lower fisheries quotas, higher oil prices and fewer farmed salmon combined with lower salmon prices. The fisheries sector accounts for about 97% of exports, and half of GDP. Unemployment is low, estimated at 2.1% in early 2018. Aided by an annual subsidy from Denmark, which amounts to about 11% of Faroese GDP , Faroese have a standard of living equal to that of Denmark. The Faroe Islands have bilateral free trade agreements with the EU, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Turkey.

 

For the first time in 8 years, the Faroe Islands managed to generate a public budget surplus in 2016, a trend which continued in 2017. The local government intends to use this to reduce public debt, which reached 38% of GDP in 2015. A fiscal sustainability analysis of the Faroese economy shows that a long-term tightening of fiscal policy of 5% of GDP is required for fiscal sustainability.

 

Increasing public infrastructure investments are likely to lead to continued growth in the short term, and the Faroese economy is becoming somewhat more diversified. Growing industries include financial services, petroleum-related businesses, shipping, maritime manufacturing services, civil aviation, IT, telecommunications, and tourism.

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$2.001 billion (2014 est.)

$1.89 billion (2013 est.)

$1.608 billion (2012 est.)

country comparison to the world: 197

Real GDP growth rate

5.9% (2017 est.)

7.5% (2016 est.)

2.4% (2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 30

GDP (official exchange rate)

$2.765 billion (2014 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 18% (2013 est.)

industry: 39% (2013 est.)

services: 43% (2013 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 52% (2013)

government consumption: 29.6% (2013)

investment in fixed capital: 18.4% (2013)

Agricultural products

potatoes, mutton, sheep skins, sheep offals, beef, sheep fat, cattle offals, cattle hides, cattle fat

Industries

fishing, fish processing, tourism, small ship repair and refurbishment, handicrafts

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 15%

industry: 15%

services: 70% (December 2016 est.)

Budget

revenues: 835.6 million (2014 est.)

expenditures: 883.8 million (2014)

note: Denmark supplies the Faroe Islands with almost one-third of its public funds

Fiscal year

calendar year

Exports

$1.184 billion (2016 est.)

$1.019 billion (2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 172

Exports - partners

Russia 26.4%, UK 14.1%, Germany 8.4%, China 7.9%, Spain 6.8%, Denmark 6.2%, US 4.7%, Poland 4.4%, Norway 4.1% (2017)

Exports - commodities

fish and fish products (97%) (2017 est.)

Imports

$978.4 million (2016 est.)

$906.1 million (2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 190

Imports - partners

Denmark 33%, China 10.7%, Germany 7.6%, Poland 6.8%, Norway 6.7%, Ireland 5%, Chile 4.3% (2017)

Imports - commodities

goods for household consumption, machinery and transport equipment, fuels, raw materials and semi-manufactures, cars

Debt - external

$387.6 million (2012)

$274.5 million (2010)

country comparison to the world: 181

Exchange rates

Danish kroner (DKK) per US dollar -

6.586 (2017 est.)

6.7269 (2016 est.)

6.7269 (2015 est.)

6.7236 (2014 est.)

5.6125 (2013 est.)

Energy

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 100% (2020)

Electricity

installed generating capacity: 128,000 kW (2020 est.)

consumption: 358.64 million kWh (2019 est.)

exports: 0 kWh (2020 est.)

imports: 0 kWh (2020 est.)

transmission/distribution losses: 23.16 million kWh (2019 est.)

Electricity generation sources

fossil fuels: 58.9% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

nuclear: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

solar: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

wind: 15.1% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

hydroelectricity: 26% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

tide and wave: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

geothermal: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

biomass and waste: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

Coal

production: 0 metric tons (2020 est.)

consumption: 0 metric tons (2020 est.)

exports: 0 metric tons (2020 est.)

imports: 0 metric tons (2020 est.)

proven reserves: 0 metric tons (2019 est.)

Petroleum

total petroleum production: 0 bbl/day (2021 est.)

refined petroleum consumption: 5,500 bbl/day (2019 est.)

crude oil and lease condensate exports: 0 bbl/day (2018 est.)

crude oil and lease condensate imports: 0 bbl/day (2018 est.)

crude oil estimated reserves: 0 barrels (2021 est.)

Natural gas

production: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

consumption: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

exports: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

imports: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

proven reserves: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions

870,000 metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from coal and metallurgical coke: 0 metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from petroleum and other liquids: 870,000 metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from consumed natural gas: 0 metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 177

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 15,341 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 31 (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 182

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 59,213 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 121 (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 203

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: the Faroe Islands have a highly developed communication network, which covers the whole country; from telecommunication and mobile phones to the internet and media, the Faroe Islands are at the forefront of modern communications technology; working within the special geographic circumstances of the Faroe Islands; companies have become world experts in providing digital communication solutions to remote and sparsely populated areas (2022)

domestic: roughly 31 per 100 teledensity for fixed-line and nearly 121 per 100 for mobile-cellular; both NMT (analog) and GSM (digital) mobile telephone systems are installed (2020)

international: country code - 298; landing points for the SHEFA-2, FARICE-1, and CANTAT-3 fiber-optic submarine cables from the Faroe Islands, to Denmark, Germany, UK and Iceland; satellite earth stations - 1 Orion; (2019)

note: the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on production and supply chains globally; since 2020, some aspects of the telecom sector have experienced a downturn, particularly in mobile device production; progress toward 5G implementation has resumed, as well as upgrades to infrastructure; consumer spending on telecom services has increased due to the surge in demand for capacity and bandwidth; the crucial nature of telecom services as a tool for work and school from home is still evident, and the spike in this area has seen growth opportunities for development of new tools and increased services

Broadcast media

1 publicly owned TV station; the Faroese telecommunications company distributes local and international channels through its digital terrestrial network; publicly owned radio station supplemented by 3 privately owned stations broadcasting over multiple frequencies

Internet users

total: 47,703 (2019 est.)

percent of population: 98% (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 197

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 18,443 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 38 (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 169

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 1 (2020) (registered in Denmark)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 3 (registered in Denmark)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 1

1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2021)

Roadways

total: 960 km (2017)

paved: 500 km (2017)

unpaved: 460 km (2017)

note: those islands not connected by roads (bridges or tunnels) are connected by seven different ferry links operated by the nationally owned company SSL; 28 km of tunnels

country comparison to the world: 187

Merchant marine

total: 101

by type: container ships 6, general cargo 48, oil tanker 1, other 46 (2021)

country comparison to the world: 88

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Fuglafjordur, Torshavn, Vagur

Military and Security

Military and security forces

no regular military forces or conscription

Military - note

the Government of Denmark has responsibility for defense; as such, the Danish military’s Joint Arctic Command in Nuuk, Greenland is responsible for territorial defense of the Faroe Islands; the Joint Arctic Command has a contact element in the capital of Torshavn

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

because anticipated offshore hydrocarbon resources have not been realized, earlier Faroese proposals for full independence have been deferred; Iceland, the UK, and Ireland dispute Denmark's claim to UNCLOS that the Faroe Islands' continental shelf extends beyond 200 nm