Greenland, the world's largest island, is about 81% ice-capped. Vikings reached the island in the 10th century from Iceland; Danish colonization began in the 18th century, and Greenland became an integral part of the Danish Realm in 1953. It joined the European Community (now the EU) with Denmark in 1973 but withdrew in 1985 over a dispute centered on stringent fishing quotas. Greenland remains a member of the Overseas Countries and Territories Association of the EU. Greenland was granted self-government in 1979 by the Danish parliament; the law went into effect the following year. Greenland voted in favor of increased self-rule in November 2008 and acquired greater responsibility for internal affairs when the Act on Greenland Self-Government was signed into law in June 2009. Denmark, however, continues to exercise control over several policy areas on behalf of Greenland, including foreign affairs, security, and financial policy in consultation with Greenland's Self-Rule Government.



Northern North America, island between the Arctic Ocean and the North Atlantic Ocean, northeast of Canada

Geographic coordinates

72 00 N, 40 00 W

Map references

Arctic Region


total: 2,166,086 sq km
land: 2,166,086 sq km (410,449 sq km ice-free, 1,755,637 sq km ice-covered)

Area - comparative

slightly more than three times the size of Texas

Land boundaries

0 km


44,087 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 3 nm
exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm or agreed boundaries or median line
continental shelf: 200 nm or agreed boundaries or median line


arctic to subarctic; cool summers, cold winters


flat to gradually sloping icecap covers all but a narrow, mountainous, barren, rocky coast


mean elevation: 1,792 m
elevation extremes: lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Gunnbjorn Fjeld 3,700 m

Natural resources

coal, iron ore, lead, zinc, molybdenum, diamonds, gold, platinum, niobium, tantalite, uranium, fish, seals, whales, hydropower, possible oil and gas

Land use

agricultural land: 0.6%
arable land 0%; permanent crops 0%; permanent pasture 0.6%
forest: 0%
other: 99.4% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land


Natural hazards

continuous permafrost over northern two-thirds of the island

Environment - current issues

protection of the arctic environment; preservation of the Inuit traditional way of life, including whaling and seal hunting

Geography - note

dominates North Atlantic Ocean between North America and Europe; sparse population confined to small settlements along coast; close to one-quarter of the population lives in the capital, Nuuk; world's second largest ice sheet after that of Antarctica

People and Society

Ethnic groups

Inuit 88%, Danish and other 12% (2010 est.)


57,728 (July 2016 est.)


noun: Greenlander(s)
adjective: Greenlandic


Greenlandic (East Inuit) (official), Danish (official), English


Evangelical Lutheran, traditional Inuit spiritual beliefs

Age structure

0-14 years: 21.26% (male 6,237/female 6,034)
15-24 years: 15.81% (male 4,612/female 4,514)
25-54 years: 41.6% (male 12,597/female 11,416)
55-64 years: 12.43% (male 4,001/female 3,177)
65 years and over: 8.9% (male 2,754/female 2,386) (2016 est.)

Median age

total: 33.8 years
male: 35 years
female: 32.6 years (2016 est.)

Population growth rate

-0.02% (2016 est.)

Birth rate

14.4 births/1,000 population (2016 est.)

Death rate

8.6 deaths/1,000 population (2016 est.)

Net migration rate

-6 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2016 est.)

Population distribution

settlement concentrated on the southwest shoreline, with limited settlements scattered along the remaining coast; interior is uninhabited


urban population: 86.4% of total population (2015)
rate of urbanization: 0.74% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas - population

NUUK (capital) 17,000 (2014)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 1.1 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 1.26 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.15 male(s)/female
total population: 1.1 male(s)/female (2016 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: 9 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 10.3 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 7.7 deaths/1,000 live births (2016 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 72.4 years
male: 69.7 years
female: 75.2 years (2016 est.)

Total fertility rate

2.01 children born/woman (2016 est.)

Physicians density

1.67 physicians/1,000 population (2009)

Hospital bed density

5.8 beds/1,000 population (2009)

Drinking water source

urban: 100% of population
rural: 100% of population
total: 100% of population
urban: 0% of population
rural: 0% of population
total: 0% of population (2015 est.)

Sanitation facility access

urban: 100% of population
rural: 100% of population
total: 100% of population
urban: 0% of population
rural: 0% of population
total: 0% of population (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate


HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS


HIV/AIDS - deaths



Country name

conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Greenland
local long form: none
local short form: Kalaallit Nunaat
note: named by Norwegian adventurer Erik THORVALDSSON (Erik the Red) in 985 in order to entice settlers to the island

Government type

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

Dependency status

part of the Kingdom of Denmark; self-governing overseas administrative division of Denmark since 1979


name: Nuuk (Godthaab)
geographic coordinates: 64 11 N, 51 45 W
time difference: UTC-3 (2 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
note: Greenland has four time zones

Administrative divisions

4 municipalities (kommuner, singular kommune); Kujalleq, Qaasuitsup, Qeqqata, Sermersooq
note: the North and East Greenland National Park (Avannaarsuani Tunumilu Nuna Allanngutsaaliugaq) and the Thule Air Base in Pituffik (in northwest Greenland) are two unincorporated areas; the national park's 972,000 sq km - about 46% of the island - makes it the largest national park in the world and also the most northerly


none (extensive self-rule as part of the Kingdom of Denmark; foreign affairs is the responsibility of Denmark, but Greenland actively participates in international agreements relating to Greenland)

National holiday

June 21 (longest day)


previous 1953 (Greenland established as a constituency in the Danish constitution), 1979 (Greenland Home Rule Act); latest 21 June 2009 (Greenland Self-Government Act) (2016)

Legal system

the laws of Denmark apply where applicable and Greenlandic law applies to other areas


see Denmark


18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: Queen MARGRETHE II of Denmark (since 14 January 1972), represented by High Commissioner Mikaela ENGELL (since April 2011)
head of government: Premier Kim KIELSEN (since 30 September 2014)
cabinet: Home Rule Government elected by the Parliament (Landsting) on the basis of the strength of parties
elections/appointments: the monarchy is hereditary; high commissioner appointed by the monarch; premier indirectly elected by Parliament
election results: Kim KIELSEN elected premier; Parliament vote - Kim KIELSEN (S) 34.3%, Sara OLSVIG (IA) 33.2%, Anda ULDUM (D) 11.8%, other 20.7%

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Parliament or Inatsisartut (Landsting) (31 seats; members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by proportional representation vote to serve 4-year terms)
note: two representatives were elected to the Danish Parliament or Folketing on 18 June 2015 (next to be held by June 2019); percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - Siumut 1, Inuit Ataqatigiit 1
elections: last held on 28 November 2014 (next to be held by 2018)
election results: percent of vote by party - S 34.6%, IA 33.5%, D 11.9%, PN 11.7%, A 6.6%, other 1.7%; seats by party - S 11, IA 11, D 4, PN 3, A 2 (2013)

Judicial branch

highest court(s): High Court of Greenland (consists of the presiding professional judge and 2 lay assessors); note - appeals beyond the High Court of Greenland can be heard by the Supreme Court (in Copenhagen)
judge selection and term of office: judges appointed by the monarch upon the recommendation of the Judicial Appointments Council, a 6-member independent body of judges and lawyers; judges appointed for life with retirement at age 70
subordinate courts: Court of Greenland; 18 district or magistrates' courts

Political parties and leaders

Democrats Party or D (Demokraatit) [Randi VESTERGAARD]
Forward Party or S (Siumut) [Kim KIELSEN]
Inuit Community or IA (Inuit Ataqatigiit) [Sara OLSVIG]
Inuit Party or PI (Partii Inuit) [Nikku OLSEN]
Partii Naleraq or PN [Hans ENOKSEN]
Solidarity Party or A (Atassut) [Knud KRISTIANSEN]

Political pressure groups and leaders

other: conservationists; environmentalists; those wanting independence

International organization participation

Arctic Council, ICC, NC, NIB, UPU

Diplomatic representation in the US

none (self-governing overseas administrative division of Denmark): note - Greenland has an office in the Danish Embassy to the US; it also has offices in the Danish consulates of Chicago and New York

Diplomatic representation from the US

none (self-governing overseas administrative division of Denmark); note - the US embassy in Copenhagen has an office devoted to Greenland

Flag description

two equal horizontal bands of white (top) and red with a large disk slightly to the hoist side of center - the top half of the disk is red, the bottom half is white; the design represents the sun reflecting off a field of ice; the colors are the same as those of the Danish flag and symbolize Greenland's links to the Kingdom of Denmark

National symbol(s)

polar bear; national colors: red, white

National anthem

name: "Nunarput utoqqarsuanngoravit" ("Our Country, Who's Become So Old" also translated as "You Our Ancient Land")
lyrics/music: Henrik LUND/Jonathan PETERSEN
note: adopted 1916; the government also recognizes "Nuna asiilasooq" as a secondary anthem


GDP (purchasing power parity)

$2.173 billion (2014 est.)
$2.154 billion (2013 est.)
$2.165 billion (2012 est.)
note: data are in 2011 US dollars

Economy - overview

The economy remains critically dependent on exports of shrimp and fish, income from resource exploration and extraction, and on a substantial subsidy from the Danish Government. The subsidy was budgeted to be about $535 million in 2015, approximately 56%

The public sector, including publicly owned enterprises and the municipalities, plays the dominant role in Greenland's economy. Greenland's real GDP contracted about 5% from 2012 to 2014. Real growth is projected for 2015 and 2016 due to increasing world

During the last decade the Greenland Home Rule Government pursued conservative fiscal and monetary policies, but public pressure has increased for better schools, health care, and retirement systems. The public budget exhibited a deficit of 2% of GDP in 2

The Greenlandic economy has benefited from increasing catches and exports of shrimp, Greenland halibut and, more recently, mackerel. Due to Greenland's continued dependence on exports of fish - which accounted for 91% of exports in 2015 - the economy rema

The Greenlandic economy is expected to expand in 2016, but significant challenges face the island. High unemployment, structural challenges stemming from low levels of qualified labor, geographic dispersion, an undiversified economy, the long-term sustain

Tourism offers another avenue of economic growth for Greenland, with increasing numbers of cruise lines now operating in Greenland's western and southern waters during the peak summer tourism season.

GDP (official exchange rate)

$2.16 billion (2011 est.)

GDP - real growth rate

0.9% (2014 est.)
-0.5% (2013 est.)
1.5% (2012 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP)

$37,900 (2008 est.)
$38,100 (2007 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 13.9%
industry: 19.2%
services: 67% (2012 est.)

Agriculture - products

sheep, cow, reindeer, fish


fish processing (mainly shrimp and Greenland halibut); gold, zinc, anorthosite and ruby mining; handicrafts, hides and skins, small shipyards

Industrial production growth rate


Labor force

26,990 (2012 est.)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 13.9%
industry: 19.2%
services: 67% (2012 est.)

Unemployment rate

9.4% (2013 est.)
4.2% (2010 est.)

Population below poverty line

9.2% (2007 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%


revenues: $1.72 billion
expenditures: $1.68 billion (2010)

Taxes and other revenues

79.6% of GDP (2010)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

1.9% of GDP (2010)

Fiscal year

calendar year

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

1.8% (2012 est.)
2.8% (2011 est.)


$384.3 million (2010)
$358 million (2009)

Exports - commodities

fish and fish products 91% (2015 est.)

Exports - partners

Denmark 51.6%, China 11.1%, Japan 9.1%, Russia 7.2% (2015)


$814.2 million (2010)
$726 million (2009)

Imports - commodities

machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods, food, petroleum products

Imports - partners

Denmark 67.1%, Sweden 14.1%, Iceland 5.1% (2015)

Debt - external

$36.4 million (2010)
$58 million (2009)

Exchange rates

Danish kroner (DKK) per US dollar -
6.865 (2016 est.)
6.7236 (2015 est.)
6.7236 (2014 est.)
5.3687 (2013 est.)
5.79 (2012 est.)


Electricity - access

electrification - total population: 100% (2016)

Electricity - production

300 million kWh (2014 est.)

Electricity - consumption

300 million kWh (2014 est.)

Electricity - exports

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - imports

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity

96,000 kW (2014 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels

100% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Crude oil - production

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Crude oil - exports

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Crude oil - imports

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves

0 bbl (1 January 2016 es)

Refined petroleum products - production

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption

6,000 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports

4,633 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Natural gas - production

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - consumption

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - exports

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - imports

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves

0 cu m (1 January 2014 es)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy

600,000 Mt (2013 est.)


Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 16,000
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 28 (July 2015 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular

total: 61,000
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 106 (July 2015 est.)

Telephone system

general assessment: adequate domestic and international service provided by satellite, cables, and microwave radio relay; totally digital since 1995
domestic: microwave radio relay and satellite; the fundamental telecommunications infrastructure consists of a digital radio link from Nanortalik in south Greenland to Uummannaq in north Greenland; satellites cover north and east Greenland for domestic and foreign
international: country code - 299; satellite earth stations - 15 (12 Intelsat, 1 Eutelsat, 2 Americom GE-2 (all Atlantic Ocean)) (2015)

Broadcast media

the Greenland Broadcasting Company provides public radio and TV services throughout the island with a broadcast station and a series of repeaters; a few private local TV and radio stations; Danish public radio rebroadcasts are available (2015)

Internet country code


Internet users

total: 39,000
percent of population: 67.6% (July 2015 est.)


National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 1 (registered in Denmark)
inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 8 (registered in Denmark) (2015)

Civil aircraft registration country code prefix

OY-H (2016)


15 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 10
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 6 (2013)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 5
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 2 (2013)


note: although there are short roads in towns, there are no roads between towns; inter-urban transport is either by sea or by air (2015)

Merchant marine

registered in other countries: 1 (Denmark 1) (2010)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Sisimiut


Military branches

no regular military forces; the Government of Denmark has responsibility for defense; as such the Danish military’s Joint Arctic Command is responsible for territorial defense of Greenland (2016)

Military - note

defense is the responsibility of Denmark

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

managed dispute between Canada and Denmark over Hans Island in the Kennedy Channel between Canada's Ellesmere Island and Greenland; Denmark (Greenland) and Norway have made submissions to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) and Russia is collecting additional data to augment its 2001 CLCS submission