In Focus: Dropping Fertility

Reykjavík swimming pool Laugardalslaug

Since the 1960s, Iceland’s fertility rate has been steadily dropping. Fertility rates in 2017 were the lowest recorded since record-taking began in 1853. It should be mentioned that despite these historically low numbers, there is a constant growth in population, mainly due to immigration. Though the population may not be declining, it’s worth taking a […]

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First Puffins of the Year Arrive in Iceland

Puffin

Migratory birds are flocking to their summer breeding grounds in Iceland, and puffins are no exception. RÚV reports that Svafar Gylfason spotted the year’s first puffin while fishing at sea near Grímsey island, North Iceland last weekend.

Svafar has been recording the spring return of puffins in the area for 19 years. He says the beloved bird’s appearance is a week earlier than it’s been in the past. Atlantic puffins spend most of their lives at sea, but return to coastal locations to breed during the summer. By early May, most of Iceland’s puffins have returned to their breeding grounds, where they will dig burrows in which females lay a single egg.

The puffin’s conservation status was recently rated as vulnerable by the IUCN. Last year BirdLife International declared the Atlantic puffin in danger of extinction. Climate change and human fishing activity seem to be factors in the bird’s population decline. Over half of the world’s population of Atlantic puffins breeds in Iceland, or some 8-10 million birds.

Staffing Schools Easier Following WOW Bankruptcy, Says Administrator

Reykjavík school

“We really expect it to be easier to staff schools during the next academic year based on this changed state of affairs in tourism,” Helgi Grímsson, department head of Education and Youth at the City of Reykjavík, told Vísir. The bankruptcy of WOW air has left over 1,200 individuals without work, both former employees of the airline and employees of related businesses. Some of them are educated teachers who were lured away from schools by the booming tourism industry.

Iceland Review has already reported on laid-off WOW air flight attendants returning to jobs in nursing. Helgi says many professional  primary and preschool educators have also been working in tourism, a trend that he expects will reverse in the near future. “One now assumes that some of them are thinking of coming back to work in preschools and in primary schools and we are examining the issue and keeping an eye on it.”

“It’s just always like that, when one door closes, another opens. When construction cranes and tourists increased, there was a lot of staff leaving us for other jobs. Or that people who were entering the labour market looked rather at tourism than schools.”

Helgi says administrators are looking at ways to make it easier for former teachers to return to the classroom, by for example building up continuing education courses that will help educators get up to speed.

Iceland Has Highest Proportion of Female Prisoners in Europe

Litla hraun prison Iceland

Iceland has the lowest prison population per capita in Europe, and the highest proportion of female inmates on the continent. The data comes from the Council of Europe’s report on prison statistics for 2018, published today. The report was presented at the Council of Europe office in Brussels this morning.

According to the report, Iceland was the European country with the lowest prison population rate as of January 31, 2018, with 46.8 inmates per 100,000 inhabitants. Finland was in second place with 51.1, followed by the Netherlands (54.4), Sweden (56.5), and Denmark (63.2). The European median figure was 102.5.

Interestingly, Iceland has the highest proportion of female inmates, at 9.8%. Following are the Russian Federation (7.9%), Latvia (7.7%), Spain (7.5%), and the Czech Republic (7.4%). The European median figure was 5.0%.

Empty Jails and Unlocked Doors: The myth of a crime-free paradise

Iceland had the lowest mortality rate of inmates, with zero deaths in the year 2017. Sweden followed with 7.0 deaths per 10,000 inmates, then Finland (7.1), Georgia (10.6), and the Czech Republic (10.8). The European median figure was 26.3 deaths per 10,000 inmates.

Iceland also had the lowest rate of suicide per 10,000 inmates, with none in 2017, sharing the number one spot with Greece, Montenegro, Luxembourg, Cyprus, and Croatia. The European median figure was 5.5. The report’s authors caution that data collection varies from country to country and comparisons should be conducted cautiously.

Negotiators Reach Temporary Agreement, Await Government Input

Anna Sólveig Jónsdóttir Efling Union

The three-day hotel workers’ and bus drivers’ strike scheduled to start at midnight has been called off, RÚV reports. Several unions and the Icelandic Confederation of Enterprise (SA) have signed a declaration of intent which outlines the terms of agreement for workers’ contracts valid until November 1, 2022. Union leaders say it’s now up to the government whether the agreement is finalised – or negotiations return to the drawing board.

Taxes and housing are key factors

“We agreed on a framework for a potential contract,” stated Ragnar Þór Ingólfsson, chairperson of VR Union, “and it entails the government being part of the solution,” adding that negotiators would most likely meet with government representatives this morning. Though the details of the agreement have not been made public, Ragnar Þór says it could be acceptable for unions, the business community, and the government if all goes well.

Ragnar confirms that the government’s contribution concerns taxation and housing issues. Efling chairperson Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir says her union has emphasised tax cuts for the lowest earners. “I hope the message has come across clearly and that we will receive the news today that that it will be so,” she stated, adding “I hope the government takes on the great responsibility they truly bear now.”

Rush hour strikes ongoing

Although a three-day hotel workers’ and bus drivers’ strike scheduled to start at midnight has been called off, bus drivers’ rush hour strikes took place this morning between 7.00-9.00am. Efling CEO Viðar Þorsteinsson stated that the union would be meeting with representatives of Strætó this morning.