High Jobless Rate among Foreign Citizens in Iceland Skip to content

High Jobless Rate among Foreign Citizens in Iceland

In 2007, unemployment among foreign citizens in Iceland was lower than among natives. When the unemployment rate peaked in March and April in 2009 it was 14 percent among foreign citizens and nine percent among Icelanders.


At a construction site in Iceland in 2004. Copyright: Icelandic Photo Agency.

The Directorate of Labor estimates that the current unemployment rate is approximately 13.5 percent among foreign citizens and six percent among natives, Fréttabladid reports.

In 2007, around 20,000 foreign citizens were in the Icelandic labor market, half of whom came from Poland.

In 2006, 13 Polish citizens were registered as unemployed in Iceland but at the end of last month, 1,428 of the 2,375 foreign citizens registered as unemployed in Iceland were Polish, or 61 percent.

When only Polish laborers are concerned, unemployment was 19.5 percent in 2010.

Gerdur Gestsdóttir, an advisor at the Directorate of Labor who previously worked for Althjódahús, the Intercultural Center in Reykjavík, said it is sad how many foreign laborers cannot return to their home countries.

“If they went back they wouldn’t receive any financial support. It is therefore the better option of two evils to hang around here on unemployment benefits with little hope of finding work and under horrible social conditions than returning home and getting nothing,” she said.

The University of Iceland Institute of Social Sciences concluded in January that half of all those who accepted food donations from charities in November 2010 were Polish citizens. Almost all of them were unemployed, nine out of every ten.

Click here to read more about unemployment in Iceland.

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