Arctic Yearbook 2014 - Page 33

33 Arctic Yearbook 2014 their families out of a total population at the time of 54,500.3 Much of the foreign labor only stayed in Greenland for a few years, and very few of those who have lived in Greenland for a longer period of time or even most of their lives, have learned Greenlandic. For these people, language has not posed a major problem, since the primary administrative language, as well as the business language, historically has been Danish, and this has only modestly changed in spite of first the Home Rule and then the Self Rule. It may be difficult to differentiate between those called Greenlanders and those called Danes. The distinction is officially based on the individual’s place of birth. This means that children of Danish parents born in Greenland are registered as Greenlanders, while Greenlandic children born in Denmark are registered as Danes. Furthermore, many children are born into families where one parent is Greenlandic and one Danish. Despite this, the statistics offer a reasonable picture. The fact that Danish has been retained as the main language among officials and decision-makers is also due to the fact that imported laborers and professionals generally have the highest credentials, and thus fill a number of key positions in society, even though their numbers, including families, are down to around 6,000 out of a total population of 56,000. Whereas more than half of the nonGreenland-born population including children and pensioners have a vocational or higher education, this is only true for less than one fifth of the Greenland-born population. If we look at the number of people with a master’s degree or higher, in 2012 there were 714 Danish/foreign against only 279 Greenlanders (Statistics Greenland 2014). Most Greenlanders with a vocational or higher education are in reality more or less bilingual with Greenlandic and Danish, and many are fully bilingual – especially those with a higher education, but within this group of Greenlanders, there is also some who for different reasons do not speak Greenlandic at all. However, a very large part of the population of Greenland masters the Danish language only at a conversational or basic level, and many not at all. This means that Greenland is a bilingual society in the sense that a very large proportion of all public information is interpreted respectively into Greenlandic and Danish, and that the press operates in dual languages, with articles being translated. However, although a relatively large group can speak both languages, Greenland is also bilingual in the sense that there are two major populations, some of whom cannot directly communicate with each other. Given this, it is remarkable that the de facto administrative and legal language is that of the minority – Danish. An Unequal Society In recent decades, the economic and social inequality in Greenland has increased markedly and Greenland has gradually developed an inequality higher than the U.S., UK and Italy, as measured by the GINI coefficient (Jensen 2008). The social challenges are many, and a large proportion of the population feels more or less marginalized, while some live in poverty. With these social problems follow personal problems, with many related to alcohol and drug abuse, although total alcohol consumption has been falling and is now below the Danish level. A frighteningly high number of girls and young women – and also boys Hendriksen & Christensen