Photos of Faroe Islands

Introduction

Background

The population of the Faroe Islands is largely descended from Viking settlers who arrived in the 9th century. The islands have been connected politically to Denmark since the 14th century. A high degree of self-government was granted the Faroese in 1948, who have autonomy over most internal affairs while Denmark is responsible for justice, defense, and 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

lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m

highest point: Slaettaratindur 882 m

Natural resources

fish, whales, hydropower, possible oil and gas

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

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.)

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 87.6% (Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon descent), Danish 7.8%, other Nordic 1.4%, other 3.2% (includes Filipino, Thai, British) (2018 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.)

Median age

total: 37.2 years

male: 36.9 years

female: 37.7 years (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 72

Birth rate

14.92 births/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 118

Death rate

8.68 deaths/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 66

Net migration rate

0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 84

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: 42.4% of total population (2020)

rate of urbanization: 0.74% annual rate of change (2015-20 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: 1.07 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 1.16 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 1.07 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.94 male(s)/female

total population: 1.08 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: 6.11 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 6.74 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 5.44 deaths/1,000 live births (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 172

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 81.04 years

male: 78.5 years

female: 83.77 years (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 42

Drinking water source

improved: total: 99% of population

unimproved: total: 0% of population (2017 est.)

Physicians density

2.62 physicians/1,000 population (2016)

Hospital bed density

4.1 beds/1,000 population (2015)

Sanitation facility access

improved: total: 100% of population

unimproved: total: 1% of population (2017)

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

Dependency status

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

Government type

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

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 Bardhur 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: Bardhur A STEIGNIELSEN 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 24.5%, JF 22.1%, Union Party 20.3%, Republic 18.1%, Center Party 5.4%, Progressive Party 4.6%, New Self-Government Party 3.4%, other 1.4%, seats by party - People's Party 8, JF 7, Union Party 7, Republic 6, Center Party 2, Progressive Party 2, New 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 - Social Democratic Party 1, Republican Party 1; composition - 2 men

Judicial branch

highest courts: 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]
Self-Government Party (Sjalvstyri or Sjalvstyrisflokkurin) [Jogvan SKORHEIM]
People's Party (Folkaflokkurin) [Jorgen NICLASEN]
Progressive Party (Framsokn) [Poul MICHELSEN]
Republic (Tjodveldi) [Hogni HOYDAL] (formerly the Republican Party)
Social Democratic Party (Javnadarflokkurin) or JF [Aksel V. JOHANNESEN]
Union Party (Sambandsflokkurin) [Bardhur 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 growth rate

5.9% (2017 est.)

7.5% (2016 est.)

2.4% (2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 30

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: 199

GDP (official exchange rate)

$2.765 billion (2014 est.)

Gross national saving

25.7% of GDP (2012 est.)

25.2% of GDP (2011 est.)

25.9% of GDP (2010 est.)

country comparison to the world: 64

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: 153

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: 187

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)

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 19,137

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 37.29 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 178

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 59,771

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 116.47 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 204

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: good international and domestic communications; telecommunications network of high standards with excellent coverage throughout most parts of the country and at competitive prices (2020)

domestic: 37 per 100 for fixed-line and 116 per 100 for mobile-cellular; both NMT (analog) and GSM (digital) mobile telephone systems are installed (2019)

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

note: the COVID-19 outbreak is negatively impacting telecommunications production and supply chains globally; consumer spending on telecom devices and services has also slowed due to the pandemic's effect on economies worldwide; overall progress towards improvements in all facets of the telecom industry - mobile, fixed-line, broadband, submarine cable and satellite - has moderated

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: 49,783

percent of population: 97.58% (July 2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 197

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 18,181

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 36 (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 155

Transportation

National air transport system

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

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

Airports - with paved runways

total: 1 (2019)

1,524 to 2,437 m: 1

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: 186

Merchant marine

total: 100

by type: container ships 6, general cargo 46, oil tanker 1, other 47 (2020)

country comparison to the world: 89

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Fuglafjordur, Torshavn, Vagur

Military and Security

Military and security forces

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, Greenland is responsible for territorial defense of the Faroe Islands; the Joint Arctic Command has a contact element in the capital of Torshavn (2019)

Military - note

the Danish military’s Joint Arctic Command in Nuuk is responsible for the defense of the Faroe Islands

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