About 75 percent of employment is in the service sector, 15 percent in manufacturing and construction, and 8 per cent in agriculture and forestry and fishing. The most important industry is transport, especially shipping, with 20 percent of employment. Ever since 1865, Åland vessels have been operating the world seas. Tourism has grown sharply; trade, hotel and restaurant operations employ 12 percent of the workforce. In the manufacturing, the food industry is the largest with 3 percent of the workforce. In the archipelago municipalities, the most important industries are fishing and agriculture with 33 percent and tourism with 10 percent of the labor force. In general, the business sector in Åland is characterized by the large number of small companies, apart from the shipping companies. Åland is a zone of tax-free trade within the EU.
The Åland issue. – But the war itself, with the upheavals it gave rise to, and which profoundly disturbed the political conditions of the Baltic, has caused, with regard to the possession of these islands, an international controversy of the most serious, in which the considerations of economic, and above all ethnic reasons, have been added to the strategic nature. It opened in 1917, during the Bolshevik occupation of the islands, and for some years it has disturbed the centuries-old good relations between Sweden and Finland, creating one of the most intricate issues that the League of Nations has been called upon to decide. Overwhelmingly the population of Åland is Swedish-speaking; and the Ålanders (about 25,500) make up only one fifteenth of the Swedish population inhabiting, in compact masses, western Finland of Nyland and Ostrobothnia. The municipalities of the Åbo archipelago, which border the eastern municipalities of the Skaergard di land, present the same phenomenon under the linguistic aspect, in roughly the same proportions. However, irredentism was manifested only among the Åland Swedes, which resulted in the presentation to the King of Sweden, on February 2, 1918, in parallel with the proclamation of the independence of Finland, of a petition signed by 7000 people, to express the vote that the islands were reunited with the kingdom of Sweden.
Apart from the subtle historical-legal disquisitions on the validity of the rights of Finland, following the different procedure with which the Åland archipelago, the Finnish mainland territory and the Åbo archipelago were detached from Sweden, and about the law of the Finnish state of considering themselves the continuer of the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland, it can be said that the Ålanders tended to unite with Sweden more out of fear of a new Bolshevik occupation than out of real fear of a violent Finnishization or hatred of Finland, to which they instead easily connect communications through the winter ice, the longest historical traditions, and family ties. On the other hand, Sweden could not in turn deny listening to the compatriots who asked to reunite with their nation,
The question, brought in the same year 1918 to the Peace Conference, which met in Paris, was not considered by it to be within its competence. The Council of the League of Nations, which in turn was invested with the problem in the summer of 1919, by resolution of 24 June 1921 recognized the sovereignty of Finland, on condition, however, that the archipelago was neutralized and further administrative and educational guarantees were granted to the residents. of the Åland islands against any threat of finnization. With these international guarantees, the autonomous regime already granted to the Åland islands by the internal law of 7 May 1920 was largely integrated. According to this law, the population of the Åland province is represented, for all matters falling within the sphere of autonomy, by its own Landsteng. The governor of the islands is appointed by the president of the republic and is assisted by a provincial council, which appoints all the officials. The language to be used in correspondence and contacts both with the public and with central authorities is Swedish. Military service is also replaced for the residents of the Åland islands by a compulsory period of service at traffic lights and piloting in the archipelago canals. But the question, resolved with regard to Sweden, Finland and the third powers by the resolution of the Council, is still considered as open by the Union of Russian Soviet Socialist Republics, which considers itself free from any obligation, not having participated in the discussion.