In This Frigid Territory, Unemployment Is Illegal

As a result, Svalbard is basically crime-free

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 10, 2014 1:19 PM CDT

(Newser) – How does Svalbard, Norway, remain nearly crime-free? There are a number of factors (there are fewer than 3,000 official residents and it's a remote territory with no quick escape routes), but perhaps the biggest one is that in Svalbard, it's basically against the law to be unemployed. "If you don’t have a job, you can’t live here," the awesomely named governor, Odd Olsen Ingero, explains to the New York Times. Anyone without a job—including retirees who are unable to prove they can otherwise support themselves—is deported from the territory, the northernmost one in Norway. It seems to be working: In the single detention cell, just one person has been locked up since last summer, and that detention lasted just two days. (Last year's "crime wave" consisted of nine bar brawls, and authorities' big concern this year is littering.) Typically, the 100 or so cases handled by police each year involve things like reckless snowmobile driving, and the reason most locals own a gun is ... bears.

The mayor of Svalbard's capital, Longyearbyen, notes that the elements are so harsh, the area can't sustain the jobless—or the homeless; residents are also required to have a fixed address, an important regulation to avoid deaths from freezing. Longyearbyen, the Times notes, is closer to the North Pole than it is to the capital of Norway, and snow falls even during the summer. Svalbard's strict rules make it markedly different from the rest of Norway, which offers quite a bit of support to its citizens: In this remote archipelago of Arctic islands, "there is no welfare system," says the governor. That, plus the ban on joblessness, makes for "a very quiet and law-abiding society," he adds, where keys are left in ignitions, doors are left unlocked, and computers are left unattended in coffee shops. Says a local newspaper editor, struggling to remember the last big crime story, "I think someone stole alcohol from a bar once." Click for the full article.

A sign warning of polar bears is seen Feb. 25, 2008 outside of Longyearbyen, Norway on the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, as far north as you can fly on a scheduled flight.   (AP Photo/John McConnico)
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There is no crime. - Mark Sabbatini, an American
who lives in Svalbard

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