Biggest Drop in Unemployment in Two Decades

Tourists iceland Fjallsárlón glacier lagoon

Unemployment in Iceland dropped from 10.4% to 9.1% between April and May of this year, the largest month-to-month decrease in the country since 1994. The number of people on the unemployment register has decreased by around 2,400 during the same period. The biggest decrease in unemployment was measured in tourism-related sectors, where unemployment decreased between 18 and 20 per cent. Vísir reported first.

While tourism showed the most change, unemployment decreased across all sectors between April and May, faster than projected. Minister of Social Affairs Ásmundur Einar Daðason expressed his satisfaction with the development, pointing to the government’s employment initiative “Hefjum störf!” that aimed to create at least 7,000 jobs through financial support to both private and public institutions that hired new employees. Around 10,400 jobs are now available through the initiative.

Ásmundur Einar added that the goal is to create even more jobs in the coming months in partnership with the business community. According to the Directorate of Labour’s projections, unemployment is expected to fall to 7.3-7.7% in June, which would mean the number of people on the unemployment register would drop from 20,000 in April to 14,000 by the end of this month.

Landmark Ruling in Foreign Workers’ Housing Case

sleeping pods foreign workers smíðshöfði case

A temp work agency owner was charged yesterday with five months suspended imprisonment for endangering the lives of foreign workers, RÚV reports. The owner was housing the workers in an industrial building where they slept in plywood rooms hardly bigger than the beds they contained. The ruling is the first of its kind in Iceland, ruling that the temp agency owner was responsible for ensuring fire safety on the premises despite not owning the property.

No Fire Protection or Escape Routes

The case arose in 2018 when the police investigated a robbery in Smiðshöfði street, located in an industrial district in Reykjavík, and discovered that 20-30 foreign workers were living there. Plywood “sleeping pods” had been constructed for the workers inside industrial housing. There was no fire protection and no escape routes and the risk of fire was high. The ruling defined the agency owner’s offence as serious, stating that his negligence had endangered the lives of many.

The District Attorney expressed satisfaction with the watershed ruling. “It is meaningful. The court came to the conclusion that in this case, the manager of the property who is then the renter is criminally liable for modifying the premises in this way and that there is a lack of fire protection. Here we have a ruling that is likely to set a precedent,” stated Kolbrún Benediktsdóttir, Deputy District Prosecutor.

Fire Department to Map Unregistered Housing

According to a court report presented by experts in the case, it was not a question of if – rather when – a fire would start in the building. Fire Chief Jón Víðar Matthíasson stated it was the Fire Department that decided to file a lawsuit in the case. “We simply had no other choice,” Jón stated. “The situation was such that we had to try the law and find out where we stand.”

Jón celebrated the ruling and stated his hope it would set a precedent in future cases. “We are going to start mapping unregistered housing this autumn and then we’ll get a clearer picture of the situation. And then we’ll have this ruling to support us and can use it.”

Defendant’s Counsel Criticises Lack of Owner Responsibility

The defendant’s counsel Björn Líndal did not comment on whether the ruling would be appealed. He criticised, however, the building owners were brought forth as witnesses by the prosecution. “My client is the only one made responsible as the renter but the owners are let go,” Björn stated. According to the District Prosecutor, the case against the building’s owners was dropped as the renter (the owner of the temp agency) had conducted unauthorised modifications to the premises without the owners’ knowledge or approval.

Icelandic Lottery Winner Rakes in Record ISK 1.3 Billion

currency iceland

Yesterday was certainly a lucky day for one Icelander, who won a record-high cash prize through Víkingalottó lottery. The total prize money amounts to ISK 1,270,806,970 ($10.5 million/€8.66 million) and is completely tax-free. The prize is around five times higher than any previous win in Iceland, thanks to systemic changes in the lottery system that increased the likelihood of bigger wins.

Winner Received Financial Advice

The winner visited the lottery office this morning where they received financial advice. “They have come here and we have provided them with financial advice,” stated Pétur Hrafn Sigurðsson, PRO of Íslenska getspá, which oversees the Víkingalottó’s operation in Iceland. “Generally winners receive advice on how it’s best to proceed. To tend to investing and avoid trying to conquer the world. They get general financial advice from accountants.”

Pétur says there is a four-week waiting period before the prize money is paid out to the winner. “It’s paid out in a single payment. The winner will receive the payment after four weeks. They get all of the money in their pocket as it’s entirely tax-free.” While Vísir has reported the winner is a family man in his 30s, Pétur stated he would likely prefer to remain anonymous.