As Bob Dylan once sang, The times they are a changing and so, it seems is the typical Falkland Islander.
Twenty or thirty years ago, the chances are that the average Falkland Islander worked as a shepherd or labourer on a large farm owned by an absentee landlord, who provided him with a tied cottage, if he had a wife ÃÂ¢€" something which in those days was hard to find. He received very little in the way of wages, but didn't need much cash as most commodities came on credit from the company store. If married, the average Falkland Islander living on a farm also enjoyed a number of fringe benefits such as free meat, free fuel in the form of peat, a cow or two and a garden in which he could grow vegetables. Occasionally he enjoyed electricity, but not normally for enough hours to run a deep freeze and liable to be turned on and off at the whim of the farm manager. Today, according to the results of the latest Falkland Islands Census held on October 8th 2006, the average Falkland Islander is between 30 to 44 years old and lives in the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) only town, Stanley, where he works an average of 49 hours per week for the Government, for which he is paid between £12,000 to £14,000 per year. To bolster his wages, the average Falkland Islander may well have a secondary or seasonal occupation such as tour guide or coach driver. Fortunately, also he now finds it easier to find a wife as there are almost as many women as men.. His wife also works full-time and contributes towards the £3,000 to £4,000 pounds per year he has to find to repay the mortgage he took out to buy his own three bed-roomed house. Naturally his house enjoys full kerosene-fuelled central heating, which costs him another one to three thousand pounds and is well equipped with labour-saving gadgets such as washing machines, spin dryers, dishwashers etc. Where once upon a time, the average Falkland Islander spent the winter months socialising or following a variety of craft pursuits, now, as there are some 1,844 TV sets distributed amongst a total of 1,582 households, it's safe to assume that like the rest of the world, he mainly watches TV. That is when not watching movies on one of the 1,133 DVD players or 1,155 VCRs. Communications, both internally and with the outside world, have improved dramatically with the years. Internet access is available to 740 of the 1,093 computers on the Islands and there are 1,068 mobile phones along with 1,428 fixed telephones. Although there are now more roads than ever before in the Falklands most households own one or more diesel powered 4X4 vehicles. The core population of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) - that is to say those persons either born there or long-term residents - has shown a significant increase in the 25 years since the liberation of the Islands from Argentine occupation in 1982. Leaving aside all people, military or otherwise, connected with the military garrison at Mount Pleasant, and also excluding persons temporarily present in the Islands or any estimate of those normally resident, who were temporarily absent on the night of October 8th 2006, the population of the Falkland Islands, was found to be 2,478. The figure of 2,478 shows a 4.16% increase since the last census and represents the Islands biggest population since 1931, barring the 74 days of Argentine occupation in 1982. It also represents increases of 665 persons since 1980 and 562 since 1986. The total civilian population of the archipelago, usually reckoned to be of equal land area to Wales or Connecticut, numbers 2,955. This figure, which includes civilians connected with the military establishment at Mount Pleasant, but not military personnel or their families, represents an increase of some 1.44% since the last census was held in 2001. The count also excludes persons temporarily present in the Islands or any estimate of those normally resident, who were temporarily absent on Census Night. Although the rate of immigration into the Falklands is showing signs of a slight slow down, the number of residents of more than ten years standing has increased from 1,507 in 2001 to 1,557 in 2006. Also on the rise, but to a lesser extent ÃÂ¢€" from 1,325 in 2001 to 1,339 in 2006 - is the proportion of the population born in the Islands, which now stands at 54.2%. The next biggest group by birth is made up of people from UK or St.Helena, who amount to a further 31.9% of the population. Table 10 of the comparative statistics part of the census report shows those present in the Falklands on the night of the census being born in a surprising total of 56 different countries, though this number reduces to a still cosmopolitan 25 different nationalities represented. Fastest rising group by citizenship are the Chileans, whose numbers have risen to 104 from 39 in 2001. Of some concern to the Falkland Islands Government must be the continued decline of the population of the Falkland Islands' rural areas, known locally as 'The Camp.' Since 2001 this has reduced by 7.43%, with a demographic movement to Stanley, the capital, which now contains 85.35% of the total population. Not only is the population of the Camp smaller, but with 61.68% of its population over 40 years of age, it also appears to be ageing more rapidly than that of Stanley, where the equivalent figure is 46.42%. John Fowler (MercoPress) Stanley