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Háskóli Íslands University of Iceland
Photo: Golli. The University of Iceland.

Icelandic Students Call for Access to Unemployment Benefits

The Icelandic government will set aside ISK 2.2 billion ($15 million/€13.9 million) to create 3,400 summer jobs for students in response to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Union of Icelandic Students has criticised the response as insufficient and called for student access to unemployment benefits.

Iceland’s Minister of Education Lilja Alfreðsdóttir and Minister of Social Affairs Ásmundur Einar Daðason announced the measures intended to support student employment in the coming months. The 3,400 jobs created in government institutions and municipalities will be temporary positions, active between June 1 and August 31. “If it is found that this number of summer jobs and other resources does not reach a sufficient number of students, ways will be sought to create more jobs and/or secure other means of support,” a government notice on the initiative stated.

Students Pay Into Unemployment Funds But Cannot Access Them

The National Union of Iceland Students (LÍS) has released a statement criticising the measures as insufficient, pointing toward recent surveys that showed thousands of students had not yet found summer jobs. “If unemployment among students is actually as high as the [surveys] indicate, this remedy will be short-lived,” the statement reads.

LÍS particularly criticised the fact that since January 1, 2010, Icelandic students have not had access to unemployment benefits, despite paying into the national unemployment insurance fund. According to a Europe-wide study, 87% of students in Iceland work during study breaks and 68% during the lecture period. “A part of people’s salaries are paid into the unemployment insurance fund and the insurance fund for self-employed individuals, including the salaries of students. However, students are not entitled to payments from the fund due to unemployment, even though they have been working and payments flowed into the fund because of their work.”

LÍS has launched a petition calling for the government to ensure students the right to unemployment benefits, which at the time of writing is near to reaching its goal of 2,500 signatures.

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