A look at census data has brought to light that the Westfjords were significantly more populated nearly 100 years ago than they are today.
The Westfjords’ newspaper Bæjarins bestu reports that between 1920 and 2009, there has been a 20% decrease in population on average among six regions of the area. The greatest decline, 50%, was in Árneshreppur.
Taken as a whole, the population of the Westfjords in 1920 was 13,397 – in 2010, it was 7,129.
While a loss of some 6,000 residents over the past 90 years is significant, the effects are even more visible outside of towns in the Westfjords. The farmland population in the region declined from 8,512 to just 694 over the same period.
Accounting for this drop in population, the Icelandic Regional Development Institute believes several factors were at play. The promise of more jobs in the capital region had an influence, but so did what they consider to be a lack of variety in employment opportunities in the region; in some towns and villages, a single company can employ most or even all the working-age residents.
But the immigrant work force was also taken into account, as the region has a slightly higher percentage of foreign-born residents than the rest of the country, and underdeveloped roadways – which make traveling from town to town an exercise in patience – also have their part to play.
On the positive side, the region does have the lowest rate of unemployment in the country, and the residents who do live there have a great deal of regional pride.