Faroe Islanders - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The Faroese economy has always had a monolithic export sector and a diversified internal one. Formerly, the principal export was wool; subsistence pursuits included fishing, fowling, sealing, pilot whaling, digging peat, keeping milk cows, raising hay, and—until potatoes became popular around 1830—raising barley. Today, most villagers raise potatoes and own a few sheep; some fish inshore for domestic needs or supplementary income. Pilot whaling provides an important and prized source of meat and fat. The principal export is fish. Fish and fish products regularly account for about 95 percent of Faroese exports by value; and fishing and fish processing, which employ about a fifth of the working population, account for 24 percent of the gross domestic product. The next largest categories are government services (19 percent), Commerce (14 percent), shipyards and other industry (11 percent), transportation and communication (8 percent), and construction (8 percent). The GNP is about 5.6 billion krónur, or about $12,000 per person, and is growing at a real annual rate of 4.3 percent.

Industrial Arts. In addition to a fishing fleet, which includes 270 vessels of over 20 gross tons, there are three shipyards and numerous firms engaged in construction, road building, food processing, and so forth.

Trade. The Faroes depend heavily on imported food, petroleum products, machinery, manufactured goods, raw materials, etc. About half their imports come from Denmark, and a quarter from Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom (U.K.), and western Germany. About a fifth of the Faroes' exports go to Denmark, and over half to the United States, the U.K., and Germany. The balance of trade is perennially negative. The larger towns and especially Tórshavn have many wholesale firms and specialized stores; the villages have small general stores selling foodstuffs, clothing, and Household wares.

Division of Labor. A strong sexual division of labor is only gradually weakening. Women performed household tasks and, for example, some chores in haying and digging peat. Men performed outdoor tasks and helped to card and spin wool in the winter. Women, who began to work in fish processing in the nineteenth century, today also work as clerks, nurses, teachers, etc.

Land Tenure. Lands may be either leasehold or freehold. About half the land in the Faroes is leasehold ( kongsjørð ), owned by the state. The approximately 300 leaseholds are impartible and inherited by male primogeniture. Freeholdings ( óðalsjørð ) may be divided by sale and inheritance. All land is divided between outfield ( hagi ) and infield ( bøur ). Tenancy or ownership of a stretch of outfield confers rights to a proportional stretch of infield, and, for example, to certain fowling privileges. The outfield is used for summer pasturage. The infield is used for crops and winter pasturage. A stone wall separates infield and outfield. Large sections of outfield are similarly divided, but the infield is unfenced. The village is set in the infield.

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