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Trade, industry and labour market

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Åland is a small society with an open economy that is dependent on trade with neighbouring regions. The Islands’ location midway between two expanding economic centres, southern Finland and the Stockholm region, is a major advantage, but also makes Åland sensitive to economic fluctuations in its two neighbouring markets.

Åland has a large number of businesses and a long entrepreneurial tradition. There are currently about 2,100 businesses, of which about 600 are agricultural enterprises. About 20 companies, mainly shipping firms, banks and insurance companies, have more than 50 employees. More than 90 per cent have less than 10 employees, and many are one-man businesses.

Åland’s economy is dominated by the service sector, particularly the maritime industry, which accounts for about 20 per cent of local GDP. The capital-intensive shipping industry helps to raise Åland’s GDP per capita, but income levels in Åland are not higher than the average for Finland. As Åland’s shipping companies offer more workplaces than the local labour market is able to provide, the crews also include many people living in other parts of Finland and Sweden.

Underpinning the strong growth of tourism in Åland are the frequent ferry services. In the last few years the number of arrivals has been around 2.2 million. Most return the same day, but about 420,000 guest nights are registered each year. Åland’s hotels and guesthouses have about 2,600 beds, and there are more than 2,000 holiday cottages. In the summer, many visitors arrive in their own sailing or motorboats, and stay in one of Åland’s 20 or so guest harbours. About 30,000 guest nights are registered each year in the guest harbours.

The industrial sector in Åland is small in comparison with those of neighbouring regions, but still plays an important role from an export perspective. As local industries process local farm produce and fish, their indirect employment effect is also significant. Åland also has an interesting high-tech plastics industry with worldwide exports, as well as metals, engineering, carpentry, printing and electronics businesses.

Despite their relatively modest returns, the primary industries, agriculture and fishing, play a vital role as providers of raw produce for the food industry in the archipelago and other sparsely populated areas.

Since the economic slump in the mid 1990s Åland’s employment situation has been very good. One reason for this is the Islands’ geographical location. The proximity to Stockholm and Helsinki has enabled many young people, in particular, to work and study even in times of economic weakness at home. A long-term need for staff in health and medical care, as well as education, is a problem that Åland shares with the rest of the Nordic region. Because of the large number of tourists who visit Åland in the summers the service sector is dependent on seasonal workers from outside Åland during high season.

In modern times shipping has been the dominating industry in Åland, and it has greatly contributed to the Islands’ current wealth. The changes faced by the Ålandic shipping industry pose a clear threat to Åland’s labour market and economy.

The page was last updated on 27.08.2013 kl 11:10