Record Population Increase in Iceland

pedestrian street Laugavegur Reykjavík

Iceland’s population increased by 3.1% between January 2022 and January 2023: the largest increase since 1734 or as far back as population figures for Iceland go. The population was 387,758 on January 1 of this year, and had increased by 11,510 from last year, according to the latest figures from Statistics Iceland. Population increase was proportionally greatest in the southwest.

Proportionally greatest population increase in the Southwest

The population in the Reykjavík capital area increased by 2.8% between the start of 2022 and the start of 2023 or an increase of 6,651 residents. The southwest region showed the highest proportional increase in population, at 6.7%, or 1,941 residents. The population increase was 4.2% in South Iceland and 3.1% in West Iceland, which was above the country’s average. The population growth was proportionally lower in the Westfjords (2.4%), Northeast Iceland (2.0%) and East Iceland (1.8%). The smallest increase was in the Northwest, where the number increased by only 27 individuals or 0.4%.

Population decreased in 8 of 64 municipalities

There were 64 municipalities in Iceland on 1 January 2023, which is a decrease by five, due to merger. The municipalities are diverse in size of population. Reykjavík was the most populous with 139,875 inhabitants while Árneshreppur had the smallest population of 47 inhabitants. Twenty-nine municipalities had less than 1,000 inhabitants, but only eleven had 5,000 inhabitants or more. While the country’s overall population increased, the population decreased in eight of the country’s 64 municipalities.

Nearly two thirds of the population live in the capital area

About 63% of the population lived in the Reykjavík capital area at the start of this year, that is within the connected municipalities stretching from Hafnarfjörður to Mosfellsbær. This is a total of 242,995 people of the total population of 387,758. The second largest urban area in the country was Keflavík and Njarðvík, with 21,950 inhabitants. Akureyri, North Iceland and the surrounding area come in third at 19,887 inhabitants. Inhabitants in all of Iceland’s rural areas, defined as the countryside or localities with less than 200 inhabitants, totalled 22,752 individuals or 5.9% of the total population.

How many people are born in Iceland and how many die on average per year? What can you tell me about Iceland’s population growth?

school children

Every year, around 4,000-5,000 people are born, and between 1,800-2,300 people die in Iceland. As recorded by Statistics Iceland:

  • in 2020, there were 4,512 births and 2,301 deaths;
  • in 2010, there were 4,907 births and 2,020 deaths;
  • in 2000, there were 4,315 births and 1,828 deaths.

In the third quarter of 2021, more babies were born in Iceland than in any other quarter over the past ten years: 1,310 babies were born while 580 people died. The population increased by 3,260 from the previous quarter to a total of 374,830. Inhabitants in the Reykjavík capital region numbered 240,050 and 134,780 lived in other parts of the country.

It is expected that in 2021, over of 5,000 babies will be born, which would be the most babies ever to be born in one year in Iceland. The current record is from 2010.

Net migration to Iceland during the third quarter was 2,530 people: 340 for Icelandic citizens and 2,190 for foreign citizens. Icelanders who immigrated during this period came mostly from Denmark, Norway, or Sweden (600 out of 900), while most immigrants of foreign nationality came from Poland (720 out of 3,200). Romania came second with 230 immigrants. 

With 190 Icelandic citizens moving to Sweden, this was the most popular emigration destination for Icelanders. Of the 560 Icelandic citizens who emigrated, 330 went to Denmark, Norway, or Sweden. Most foreign citizens who emigrated from Iceland during this period went to Poland (350 out of 1,000). 

There were 54,140 foreign citizens living in Iceland by the end of the third quarter of 2021, which is 14.4% of the total population.

Icelandic Population Increased by 2% Last Year

Iceland had a total population of 364,134 last year, marking a 2% increase in population in one year. This is among the findings of new data published by Statistics Iceland on Friday.

There is a reasonably even split of men (186,941) and women (177,193) in the country, although the number of men increased a little more (2.2%) than the number of women (1.7%). Data was not available on the number of nonbinary people in Iceland as of January 1. (Icelanders passed the Gender Autonomy Act in June 2019, giving individuals the right to change their official gender according to their lived experience and register as neither male nor female).

The population increased all over the country, but the biggest proportional increase was in South Iceland—3.9% or 1,053 people. Not unexpectedly, the capital region saw a significant increase: 2.1% (4,803 persons). The Westfjords had the smallest increase in population, growing by 52 inhabitants over the whole region.

Ten out of 72 municipalities in Iceland now have more than 5,000 inhabitants. Seven municipalities had fewer than 100 residents; 39 had fewer than 1,000.

Last year also saw a jump in the number of nuclear families in Iceland, defined as “couples with or without children under the age of 18 years or single parents with children under 18 years.” As of January 1, 2020, there were 84,668 in Iceland, versus 83,358 the year before.

Inhabitants of Iceland to Reach 434,000 in 2068

Reykjavík walking district laugavegur

Statistics Iceland has published population projections for 2019-2068. The forecast is predicated on statistical models for migration, fertility, and mortality. On January 1, 2019, the population was 357,000.

According to the median variant, the Icelandic population is expected to grow by 77,000 over the next 50 years (reaching 434,000). The high variant predicts a population of 506,000 while the low variant predicts a population of 366,000. These projections are based on varying assumptions on economic growth, fertility, and migration levels.

The median variant also predicts that from 2055, the number of yearly deaths is expected to exceed the number of births. Life expectancy at birth will increase from 84.0 years in 2019 to 88.7 years in 2068 for women, and from 79.9 to 84.4 years for men.

By 2035, 20% of the population will be older than 65 years. By 2055, that number will rise to 25%. After 2046, inhabitants of Iceland over 65 years old will become more numerous than those inhabitants under the age of 20.

The Icelandic population is, on average, younger than other EU countries:

“Although the population is aging and the population growth is rather slow, the Icelandic population is and will be younger than the population in the EU countries on average. For instance, the percentage of 0 to 15-year olds in Iceland will decrease to 16% in 2044, which is the 2018 proportion of young people in EU-28. Older persons (aged 65 or over) had already a 20% share of EU-28 population in 2018, while in Iceland this proportion will reach 20% in 2035.”

Iceland’s Population to Increase by 88,000 in 50 Years

Austurvöllur Square Christmas Tree Lighting, Reykjavík.

Iceland’s population is projected to increase to 436,000 by 2067, marking an increase of 88,000 people in 50 years. This projection was published in a recent report by Statistics Iceland.

Life expectancy for Icelandic women is currently 83.9 years and is expected to extend to 88.7 years in 2067. Icelandic men currently have a life expectancy of 79.8 years, expected to go up to 84.4 years. The number of annual births is also expected to continue to outstrip the number of deaths each year.

Immigration rates – that is, people of foreign origin moving to Iceland – are expected to exceed emigration rates, i.e. Icelanders moving to other countries. It is also expected, however, that there will be more Icelanders moving out of Iceland in 2067 than returning to the country after living abroad.

The age demographics of the country is expected to shift quite dramatically: “By 2039, 20% of the population will be older than 65 years and by 2057, the proportion will be over 25%.” After 2046, however, people 65 years and older will outnumber people 20 years and younger.

Even so, Iceland will remain a relatively young country when compared to other European nations. In January 2017, the proportion of people aged 20 and under in Europe was 28%. In Iceland, however, the population of young people won’t drop to a similar percentage – 27%, specifically – until 2050. Similarly, the percentage of the European population aged 65 and older was at 19% in January 2017. Iceland’s senior population will not hit 19% until 2035.

See the report (in English) and associated graphics here.