The High North Tour 2021: Røst Fights to Stop Out-Migration

Røst Mayor Elisabeth Mikalsen chairs major municipal investments to attract young people to the island municipality. (Video: Arne O.  Holm)

Røst: 100 kilometers into the ocean west of Bodø, Norway lies Røst Island, one of Norway’s smallest municipalities. Fisheries are the source of a value creation at the national top level. But here, too, population figures are dropping.

Elisabeth Mikalsen is new to her role as politician and mayor in the island municipality. She acknowledges that there is a limit to how low population figures may drop before the situation becomes critical.

Røst på norgeskartet. (Ill: Iris Ørnhaug, Nord universitet)
Røst på norgeskartet. (Ill: Iris Ørnhaug, Nord universitet)
Røst is the outermost, and southernmost, municipality in Lofoten, located approx. 100 km west of Bodø and 115 km north of the Arctic Circle. (Ill: Iris Ørnhaug, Nord University)

“I do not know quite where that limit is, but I wish it would turn soon”, Mikalsen says.

She also sees young people wanting to return to Røst, yet there is a shortage on housing that makes it difficult. Abandoned houses are acquired and used as holiday homes by people who do not live in the municipality.

“Those who want to build new houses are unable to meet the deductible requirements from the banks. And once the house is built, its value is already dropping”, Elisabeth Mikalsen explains.

Røst nevertheless puts its efforts into a future with increased influx of young inhabitants. The municipality has been ordered to renovate the school but has recently decided to rather establish a larger center for children and youth.

“When we establish such a center, it will cost us more than the municipal operational income. It is about our getting less funding the fewer inhabitants we have. That is how the system works.”

Infection-free municipality

Røst is one out of very few municipalities that have not had any cases of infection during the pandemic, despite a large influx of foreign seasonal workers during the winter fisheries.

Røst. (Foto: Arne O. Holm)
Røst. (Foto: Arne O. Holm)
Housing shortage makes it difficult for young, educated people to return to Røst. (Photo: Arne O. Holm)

“We have a small administration in the municipality, and it is required to handle the same as larger municipalities. But we have worked closely together and had a rather unique collaboration between public officers, businesses, and inhabitants. Today, we are one out of 10 or 12 municipalities with no cases of infection proven. It has been very important to us. We have been through two winter season fisheries, and if the pandemic were to hit then, it would be disastrous”, says Elisabeth Mikalsen to High North News.

Watch the entire interview with Røst Mayor Elisabeth Mikalsen on top of this page.

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