Fiddling with Perfection

Hans Jóhannsson icelandic luthier

It was half past four on a Sunday afternoon inside the Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre in Reykjavík.Three-hundred-and-sixty chairs, nearly all of them occupied, had been arranged in meticulous fashion within the Norðurljós auditorium. Twenty-five musicians, tickling four different kinds of stringed instruments, were performing Richard Strauss’ Metamorphoses on stage. And two people, who […]

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Does Iceland have many foreign residents? What are the wages and working conditions like for foreign workers?

reykjavík iceland esja

Yes, Iceland has a significant number of foreign residents. The latest figures from Statistics Iceland show that immigrants comprise around 18% of the total population of Iceland.

The Icelandic economy has grown quickly in the years following the 2008 banking collapse, largely driven by the tourism industry. However, given Iceland’s small population pool, the recent economic expansion is largely dependent on foreign labour.

Of Icelanders with a foreign background, Poles make up by far the largest group. As of 2022, some 20,896 were living in Iceland, or 34.2% of the total immigrant population. The second- and third-largest groups are comprised of people from Lithuania and Romania respectively.

Employment opportunities mean that Iceland's immigrant population is largely clustered around the capital region, though residents with a foreign background also make up a notable part of the Westfjords. One of the least-populated regions of Iceland, tour-related services have become a large part of this region's economy.

Though Iceland is an attractive destination for many, there are also realities to immigration.

For example, a 2018 study by the University of Akureyri found while the average monthly salary in that year for full-time workers was 721,000 ISK [$5,168; €4,727], 60% of immigrants made only 400,000 ISK [$2,866; €2,623] or less per month.

Besides statistics, there is of course also a subjective element to the immigrant experience. Iceland is a small community with a unique language. For some, this is a major attraction to life in Iceland, but for others, it can be alienating. Some may also find themselves working largely English-based jobs in the tourism and service sector, and never truly integrating to Icelandic society.

Unfortunately, there have also been increasing incidents of wage theft, in which employers withhold earnings from workers who may not be in a position to press their rights. Read about the rights of workers here, in English.

This is of course a large issue with many facets. Read our coverage of social issues, and check out our coverage of Iceland's largest immigrant population below.

Prospective immigrants to Iceland may also find this Ask Iceland Review helpful: How can I move to Iceland?


School Plan for Grindavík Children Announced

grindavík eruption

An information meeting held today, November 20, by the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management laid out current plans for the Grindavík primary school children displaced by the standing evacuation order.  RÚV reports.

No compulsory school for Grindavík children

According to the latest announcement, there is to be no compulsory schooling for Grindavík children, though they will be provided with the opportunity to attend school. Arrangements are currently being made with the assistance of neighbouring communities.

The children of Grindavík will be presented with two main options: attending school in the community where their family currently resides or attending one of several “group schools” throughout Reykjavík.

Families who wish to enrol their child in their community school are advised to directly contact school administrators.

Children from Grindavík who wish to remain with their peers can do so in several “group schools” throughout Reykjavík, which are slated to begin this Wednesday, November 22.

Groups will be organized based on age, and teachers from Grindavík will accompany the students. Groups will be organised as follows:

  • First and second grades will assemble at Hvassaleitisskóli.
  • Third and fourth grades will assemble at the Tónabær community centre.
  • Fifth through eighth grades will assemble at Ármúli 30.
  • Ninth and tenth grades will assemble at Laugalækjarskóli.

Further information will be provided to parents and students via the Mentor learning management system.

MET Office: Likelihood of Volcanic Eruption Remains “High”

Authorities are currently still considering available sites for a group preschool for Grindavík children. The current plan is for Grindavík preschool children to come together with familiar teachers and possibly parents.

Officials stress that the circumstances of the children vary, and parents are encouraged to have an open conversation with their children about their schooling.

MET Office: Likelihood of Volcanic Eruption Remains “High”

Grindavík - Þorbjörn

The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management will hold a press conference at 11 AM to address the ongoing geological unrest on the Reykjanes peninsula and the response of the authorities. The Icelandic MET Office still believes that there is a high likelihood of a volcanic eruption.

120 homeowners to be granted access

Since midnight, the Reykjanes peninsula has experienced 460 earthquakes, with the strongest reaching a magnitude of 2.7, RÚV reports. The Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management is holding a press conference at 11 AM today to update the public on the ongoing geological unrest in the area.

Starting at 9 AM today, homeowners from Grindavík, who had registered on and received notifications, were allowed access to their properties via Suðurstrandavegur (as opposed to Grindavíkurvegur). This access is permitted until 3 PM, after which businesses will be allowed entry. A total of 120 homeowners are expected to be allowed into Grindavík today.

According to RÚV, information from an Icelandic MET Office interferogram indicates accelerated land uplift near the Svartsengi area. The MET Office still believes that there is a “high likelihood” of an impending volcanic eruption.

A range of officials, including government ministers, local government representatives, Grindavík municipal staff, the National Police Commissioner, and emergency response teams, will be available at the Grindavík residents’ service centre at the Toll House (Tollahúsið) on Tryggvagata 19 in downtown Reykjavík from 4 to 5 PM today.