Immigrant Workers Leave Iceland Because of ISK Skip to content

Immigrant Workers Leave Iceland Because of ISK

About 3,000 laborers of foreign origin currently working in Iceland are expected to return to their home countries this year, mainly because of wage reduction caused by the depreciation of the ISK and recession in the construction industry.

Gissur Pétursson, head of the Directorate of Labor, told Fréttabladid that there are currently up to 18,000 workers of foreign citizenry in Iceland. “We expect their number to reduce by about 3,000 people this year.”

“We have around 150 foreign workers now and I expect about half to go home this summer if nothing changes,” said Óskar Thórdarson at the temporary work agency VOOT.

Immigrant workers who send the money they earn home to their families are suffering greatly from the depreciation of the ISK. “It is an immense wage reduction, comparable to a 30 percent cut to their salaries,” said Sverrir Einar Eiríksson at the temporary work agency Proventus.

The number of immigrant workers returning to their home countries with a certificate which gives them rights to unemployment benefits at home this year already equals the number of foreign-born employees who left Iceland in 2007.

“We have held a meeting with Polish workers regarding this matter,” said Bolli Árnason, managing director of GT-taekni at the Century Aluminum smelter on Grundartangi. One of their employees has already left the country because of the ISK and rumor has it others are going to follow his example.

Others request receiving their pay in euros and a few companies have sought advice from labor unions on how that should be executed. According to the latest wage contracts, salaries in Iceland can partly be paid in a foreign currency.

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