The earliest inhabitants were attracted by the availability of fish and game. Nowadays, oil and gas exploration, fisheries, forestry and tourism are attracting an influx of settlers to the region.
Barents is a vast area, and the economic structure varies significantly between the countries and regions. The overall trend in GDP development has been positive in the 21st century. The East-West division is still visible as the Nordic GDPs are higher than those in Russian regions. In 2011 the average GDP per capita in the whole region was 26 497 euro.