Government Announces Increased Child and Housing Benefits

katrin jakobsdottir prime minister iceland

In the wake of the recently-concluded contract negotiations between VR and SA, the government has announced a series of measures aimed at supporting low- and middle-income households.

At a press conference at 14:30 today, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, alongside Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson and Minister of Infrastructure Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, announced the new policies, which aim to support the buying-power of households, while keeping inflation rates down.

Improved Child Benefits

The child benefit system is to be simplified, while also increasing support for the system, allowing more to qualify for child benefits.

The improved child benefits will represent a total increase of ISK 5 billion from the current system over the next two years. Additionally, the system is to be streamlined to reduce the waiting time for child benefits, which are not to exceed four months after the birth of a child.

Changes in Housing

The government also plans to increase the housing supply by incentivizing the development of new real estate throughout the nation.

Increased access to social housing will also be a priority, with some ISK 4 billion to be allotted in 2023 to the expansion of affordable housing in Iceland.

Housing benefits for tenants will also be increased.

Additional reforms include improved pensions for the elderly and disabled, increased funding for workplace training, and reforms to pension funds.

Bundled along these concessions to Iceland’s cost-of-living crisis will also be a large increase to police funding.

Read the full announcement here.

VR and SA Agree on Contract

iceland trade union

VR Union and SA, the Federation of Icelandic Employers, have settled on a short-term contract that will be valid through next year.

The agreement will retroactively cover November of this year, and includes a 6.75% wage increase, in addition to increased holiday bonuses and adjusted wage tables for hourly workers.

Some have noted similarities between the recent VR contract and that recently reached between SGS and SA.

See also: Possible End in Sight for VR, SA Negotiations

The signing was a rather chaotic affair with representatives from throughout the country present. Official statements were relatively brief, given the long and tiring process it has been so far.

Kristján Þórður Snæbjarnarson, chairman of the Electrical Industry Association of Iceland, stated to RÚV. “We were trying to press these negotiations as far as possible. I think this is the best outcome under the circumstances.”

Notably, Ragnar Þór Ingólfsson, chairperson of VR union, gave no interview after the signing.

After the signing, representatives from both the trade unions, SA, and state mediators sat down to celebrate over waffles, a tradition in Icelandic labour contracts.

In Focus: Wage Negotiations

In Focus: Indexed Mortgages

indexed mortgage iceland

Iceland’s housing market has undergone rapid changes over the past two years, with prices shooting upward. The market has begun to gradually cool, as a result of rising interest rates, with prices stalling or even slightly lowering in some cases. While there are multiple factors that affect housing prices – including availability and a pandemic-inspired […]

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In Focus: Wage Negotiations

hotel workers strike Reykjavík

Power vacuum When Drífa Snædal resigned from her position as chairperson of ASÍ (The Icelandic Confederation of Labour) this summer, she left a power vacuum at the heart of Iceland’s largest organisation of trade unions. The Icelandic Confederation of Labour consists of 47 trade unions and represents some 2/3 of Icelandic organised labour, around 133,000 […]

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Possible End in Sight for VR, SA Negotiations

vr union iceland, Ragnar Þór Ingólfsson

After a late night of fruitless negotiations between VR and SA, the Federation of Icelandic Employers, an end to bargaining may be in sight.

The Assistant State Mediator confirmed that negotiations will resume at 13:00 today, when a final contract will be signed.

Read more: Rising Interest Rates Complicate Wage Negotiations

The details of the final contract are not yet public, but an increased living wage in the face of inflation and rising interest rates has been talked about for some time now.

The current negotiations between VR and SA have been ongoing since November 14, but the last 24 hours have been under a media embargo, given the potentially sensitive nature of the details.

Efling Trade Union has also had a long and contentious negotiation process.

Other unions have also agreed to shorter-term contracts as a compromise in a difficult negotiating climate.

Read more: VR Leaves Negotiating Table

A press conference will be held later today a 14:30 in which Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson, and Minister of Infrastructure Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson will give their statements on the importance of the agreement for the labour market.

While the content of the agreement is not yet known, in addition to basic wage increases, sources suspect increased measures in child and housing benefits.

Triangle of Sadness Sweeps European Film Awards

Harpa Concert Hall Reykjavík

The 2022 European Film Awards took place in Rekjavík’s Harpa concert hall last night, December 11.

Some 1,200 were expected for the film awards, 700 of those foreign guests who came for the ceremony.

See also: European Film Awards in Reykjavík Postponed Due to COVID-19

The film awards, which had previously been postponed due to COVID-19, are seen as significant, as their being hosted in Reykjavík serves as recognition for Iceland as a film industry destination.

“Triangle of Sadness,” directed and written by Ruben Östlund, swept the awards last night. A critique of the lifestyles of the super-rich, the film garnered awards in four categories, including best film, best director (Ruben Östlund), best screenwriter (Ruben Östlund), and best actor (Zlatko Buric).

Other notable prize-winners included Vicky Krieps (best actress, “Corsage”), “Mariupolis” (best documentary), and “The Good Boss” (best European comedy).

In lieu of the traditional red carpet often present at film awards, attendees at Harpa walked along a moss carpet, both a reference to Icelandic nature and sustainability.

 

Danish Breeders to Import Icelandic Mink

iceland mink farming

Two thousand Icelandic minks are set to be exported to Denmark to help reconstitute their breeding population.

Mink breeding will become legal again in 2023, and Icelandic mink are set to play a key role for Danish mink farmers.

See also: Icelandic Minks Tested for Coronavirus

The entire Danish mink population of some 13.5 million animals was controversially culled in 2020 over fears of human-animal transmission of the COVID-19 virus.

The cull was carried out without the proper legal authority and caused billions of Euros in damages to the industry. The incident has been the cause of ongoing political controversy in Denmark.

In addition to Icelandic mink, Norwegian, Finnish, Polish, and Spanish mink will also be imported. Icelandic mink are said to be especially important in the renewal of Danish mink farming for their genetic similarity to the now-culled Danish stock.

The political fallout of the 2020 mink cull still continues in Denmark with regard to disputes over the cost of import and tests for the new animals. Representatives of the mink farming industry claim that the state should bear responsibility for the costs, after the illegal cull.