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Communities in Focus

The Arctic is a politically and culturally diverse region that comprises territories of eight states, including Canada, Finland, Greenland (the Kingdom of Denmark), Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States.


To provide a comprehensive perspective on COVID-19 pandemic’s gender impacts and gendered policy responses, the COVID-GEA Project focuses on three different yet indicative study regions representing all three Arctic models of gender equality as identified by the UGEEA Project

  • ‘North American Arctic’

  • ‘Nordic Arctic’

  • ‘Russian Arctic.’ 


The COVID-GEA uses a multiscale approach by integrating diverse information flows from urban and rural settings in each study region. 

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North American Arctic:
Focus on Alaska

Nordic Arctic:
Focus on Northern Iceland

Russian Arctic:
Focus on Nenets Region

Study Regions: A Brief Overview


Alaska is one of the Arctic regions most severely affected by COVID-19. The total number of COVID-19 cases in the state on June 24, 2022, was 269,445, including 1,252 deaths; 48% of cases are women, 52% men. Anchorage and many rural boroughs have been particularly struck by the pandemic. Numerous studies have shown the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 among Alaska Native and American Indian peoples and exceptionally higher rates of morbidity and mortality from the virus.


Project’s study site in Alaska, the city of Anchorage, Dgheyaya Kaq, is located within Dena’ina traditional homelands of the Dena’ina Athabascan peoples in southcentral Alaska. Anchorage, known for its diverse population, has approximately 288,000 residents (2019), nearly 10% of which are Native Americans. Women make up 49.1% of the city’s population. Anchorage’s economy is supported by transportation, government and military sectors, tribal health care, corporations including Alaska Native-led corporations and affiliates, and natural resource extraction. As the largest city in Alaska, Anchorage serves as a major transportation hub to rural communities.


Alaska Native peoples make up approximately 18% of Alaska's population. There are 229 federally recognized tribes, 13 regional corporations, and over 200 village corporations. The corporations provide regional services, including state health, housing, and educational programs to Alaska Native peoples. Eighty percent of Alaska's communities are rural and off the road system. This study has proposed working in the Northwest Arctic or Southeast Alaska, which have only air or boat access year-round. The Northwest Arctic is 85% Alaska Native. The Tlingit Haida Council in Southeast Alaska is a unique regional tribe consisting of over 32,000 citizens. Our Alaska partners are working with communities to ensure equitable engagement in the project.


While there were relatively few infections in the beginning of pandemic, Iceland experienced an early onset of the pandemic in the spring of 2020 with a rapid increase in both cases and deaths followed by a few spikes later on (192,991 cases and 153 deaths, or 51,293.56 infections cases per 100,000 as of June 24, 2022). Iceland exercised tough prevention and mitigation measures early in the pandemic and continued with restrictive policies later. From the beginning of the pandemic, Iceland used isolation, quarantine, and contact tracing to limit COVID-19 spreading spatially. The study will focus on northern Iceland. 

The city of Akureyri is a gender-balanced town of 18,933 people (49.8% of male and 50.2% female residents). It is the second largest urban center in Iceland, following the capital of Reykjavík. It is a major service hub for the north and northeast regions of Iceland. Fisheries and the Akureyri port are important sources of income, but other businesses and services, not least in the tourism sector, have become increasingly important. 

The town of Húsavík is a small settlement in the northeast of Iceland with a population of 2,383, of whom 47.5% are women, and 52.5% are men. Traditionally Húsavík is a coastal fishing town with a bustling fishing port in addition to being a service hub for the nearby rural and farming communities. The tourism industry has been a significant addition in recent years.

Female participation in the labor market in Iceland in 2018 was just under 78%, whereas male participation was approximately 85%, with a persistent gender pay gap between 13 and 15%. While there has been a significant increase in unemployment in Iceland during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is very little difference between males and females. While there were relatively few infections in Akureyri and Húsavík, they were significantly impacted by restrictive measures, both socially and economically. Similarly to Iceland in general, women were overrepresented in severely impacted industries, such as education, childcare, health (nursing, etc.), and office work. In addition, women still bear the major responsibility for home-based care work.

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According to official statistics, Nenets Autonomous Region (NAO) in Arctic Russia experienced a relatively moderate spread of the virus with 16,794.33 cases per 100,000 and 101 deaths as of June 24, 2022. However, this reporting may not be complete. From the beginning of the pandemic, Nenets regional authorities used a quarantine regime to limit COVID-19 spatially, but allowed to hold mass public events (e.g., BuranDay). Since 2020, NAO has been facing a COVID-19-related unemployment crisis combined with challenging market and economic conditions. According to FinExpertiza, in 2020, the Nenets region was in the top ten Russian regions, with highest official and unofficial unemployment (20.7%). 


The city of Naryan-Mar (25,151 residents, 47.4% of male and 52.6% female (2021) is the regional capital and administrative center of NAO located above the Arctic Circle. The local economy relies on three dominant sectors – the public sector, subsistence economy (predominantly in rural areas), and natural resources-based industries. The latter can be characterized as ‘male dominant’ and is heavily reliant on oil extraction: in recent years, 80-85% of regional budget revenue came from taxes levied on oil companies. The NAO is the traditional home of the Nenets Indigenous People (7,500 people), representing 18% of the NAO population, but comprising only 6.2% of the total population of Naryan-Mar. 


The majority of Indigenous Peoples live in rural areas like the village of Krasnoe, comprising 70% of its 1,333 residents (2020). Many are involved in a mixed economy and pursue a traditional (semi)-nomadic lifestyle. Reindeer herding is a cornerstone of Nenets culture and a source of employment in rural areas. The village of Krasnoe is an important center of Nenets reindeer herding with large livestock of 34,000. Almost 10% of the population, mainly males, continue nomadic pastoralism in the Arctic tundra.

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