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The changing population

Population pyramid for Nunavut and Canada

Arctic populations are young compared to those of the Arctic states themselves

Note: Nunavut in numbers of people, Canada in 1000s

Source: Conference Board of Canada 2002

The Arctic is home to numerous indigenous peoples. Inuit comprise more than 80 per cent of the population of Greenland and 85 per cent of the population of Nunavut, Canada. With these exceptions, indigenous peoples are minorities in their own homelands due to immigration.

The Arctic has a very youthful population; one-quarter of the population is younger than 15 in Greenland and Iceland, whereas 41 per cent are younger than 16 in Nunavut, Canada (Conference Board of Canada 2002, CIA 1998a and b). There was a dramatic 32 per cent increase in population in Nunavut between 1986 and 1996 due to high birth rates and increased life expectancy (see charts right).

Employment opportunities and housing construction have not kept pace with population growth, resulting in unemployment and serious housing crises in many communities (AMAP 1997). High rates of alcoholism, suicide, homicide and accidental deaths in Arctic populations may also be related to lack of opportunities and a resulting sense of powerlessness (Bjerregaard and Young 1998). By the late 1990s, unemployment in the Russian North had reached 25-30 per cent (AMAP 1997), and half a million people had left the region (Weir 2001).