The Polar Retrospective – Polar opportunities | Polarjournal
Places such as Greenland’s capital Nuuk and smaller Arctic communities have felt the effects of change in the Arctic in recent years and decades. However, it is not only the climate that is changing, but also the political, economic and social face of the Arctic. Photo: Wiki Commons CC BY-SA 4.0

The polar retrospective takes up events of the past week that are related to the Arctic and Antarctic and focuses on one or more aspects. This time, the focus is on economic possibilities and opportunities arising from the changes currently taking place in the Arctic, not just in terms of climate. In an interview with Radio Arctic, Mads Qvist Frederiksen from the Arctic Economic Council takes a look at the past, present and future of economic development.

The Arctic and Antarctic are changing: not only the climate, but also the political, economic and social aspects of the polar regions are changing at an ever-increasing pace. The causes are partly linked to climate change, but also partly to the rapid global changes. This became clear once again last week with the announcement by Norwegian Defense Minister Bjørn Arild Gram, who explained in an interview with the news platform High North News that in addition to a new brigade, many infrastructure projects must also be implemented to strengthen Norway’s defense readiness. This means more construction activities, more services, more jobs and is just one example. The same can be heard from Sweden and Finland, or Canada’s northern regions, from Alaska and also from Antarctica, where many of the treaty states are modernizing their stations or even building new ones. All of this shows the interconnectedness of the individual factors responsible for change in the Polar regions.

The CEO of the Arctic Economic Council, Mads Qvist Frederiksen, sees the economic changes in the Arctic and calls for more to be done for the people in the regions, to improve conditions and thus transform the Arctic into a more attractive place to work and live. Image: Arctic Circle

People in the Arctic are feeling the change in the polar regions particularly severely. “Four million people call the Arctic their home,” explains Mads Qvist Frederiksen, Executive Director of the Arctic Economic Council, in an interview with Radio Arctic, a radio platform that conducted the interview in collaboration with Polar Journal AG. “This is where we live, this is where we go to work,” he explains. He sees the change in economic development and therefore also in the job sector as facing major challenges. The traditional sectors that provided jobs, such as fishing, mining and tourism, have to operate differently today than they did 20 or 30 years ago, he says. Sustainability is usually at the top of the agenda and he sees three obstacles to a sustainable development in the Arctic: too little investment, insufficient infrastructure and too few people.

The latter in particular is of great importance because, according to Mads Qvist Frederiksen, the Arctic regions in Scandinavia and Greenland are in a downward spiral: migration due to poor infrastructure, poor education and working conditions and hardly any prospects for the future due to a lack of investment. “A few years ago, the Norwegian government wondered how more people could be brought to the Arctic. A well-known study published by Peter Norman propagated the “High Three” theory,” Frederiksen continues in the interview. “This states that there are three things that must be present in three places.” This means that there must be three jobs, three houses and three potential partners per person.

According to Mads Qvist Frederiksen, the demographic development in Arctic regions is spiraling downwards, at the end of which only older people will remain in the Arctic. Photo: Michael Wenger

But this requires greater investment in infrastructure that not only attracts employers, but also makes everyday life better, simpler and more sustainable, he says. In addition, a more positive image of the Arctic regions and their places must be conveyed, so-called branding must be carried out and investments must be made in culture and art to prevent young people from leaving their homes. “We don’t have to work harder in the Arctic to achieve this, we have to work smarter. That’s how we prevent migration,” Frederiksen, who lives and works in Tromsø, is convinced.

When asked which sectors would play an economic role in the future and which factors need to be strengthened, Mads Qvist Frederiksen sees traditional economic sectors such as fisheries and resource extraction far ahead, but in a more modern and sustainable way. On the other hand, up-and-coming sectors such as tech companies or various service companies, as well as research, will change the Arctic as a workplace. However, this also requires political and social changes to take place. “I think we have to realize that the job market is also changing and people no longer want to work in the same way as the generations before,” says Frederiksen. Greater gender equality and inclusion, especially of the indigenous population, are essential to ensure opportunities and possibilities in the Arctic in the future and to bring about change in a positive direction for the people.

Text & Design: Dr. Michael Wenger, Polar Journal AG / Interview: Radio Arctic

If you would like to listen to the Radio Arctic interview with Mads Qvist Frederiksen in full, you can find it here. Information about the planned new “Polar Jobs” platform will also be explained in a discussion with me.

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