Birnir Most Popular Baby Name in Iceland

baby swimming

Birnir was the most popular name given to newborns in Iceland in 2023. Emilía was the most popular name given to girls. The data on the most popular baby names of 2023 was published by Registers Iceland today.

Thirty newborns were given the name Birnir last year in Iceland, more individuals than any other name. Emil and Elmar were the next most popular boys’ names, followed by Jón and Óliver. Emilía was the most popular girl’s name given to newborns last year and sixth most popular name overall. Sara, Sóley, Embla, and Aþena (Athena) were the next most popular girls’ names given to babies last year.

Nameless newborns

Naming culture in Iceland differs from that of many other countries. Newborns are not typically named at birth, but at their baptism or a non-religious naming ceremony around two months later. It is quite common for Icelandic children to be named after their grandparents, although, as the data from Registers Iceland shows, naming trends do change over time.

All names given in Iceland must be pre-approved by the country’s Naming Committee. The committee maintains a register of approved Icelandic given names and governs the introduction of new names into Icelandic culture. Its existence has been a topic of debate in recent years, with former Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir proposing its abolishment.

Anna and Jón most common

But what are the most common names in Iceland overall? The two most popular names in the country are Anna (6,272 individuals) and Jón (5,599 individuals). They are followed by Guðrún (4,923), Sigurður (4,445), and Guðmundur (4,208), which round up the top five spots.

Homicide Rate in Iceland Not Increasing, Criminologist Explains

Despite the number of homicide cases exceeding the annual average over the past four years, the murder rate in Iceland – if viewed within a broader context – has decreased per capita. A criminologist has noted that public perception is often influenced by availability bias.

Availability bias plays a role

With the murder of a man in Hafnarfjörður last weekend, a total of four homicide cases are being investigated by three police stations throughout Iceland. Seven people have died in homicide cases over the past two years.

Although it may be tempting to conclude that homicides in Iceland are on the rise, a criminologist explained to RÚV that murders have decreased per capita.

“So far this year, there have been three homicide cases. There were four people who died last year in three homicide cases. The year before that there were two deaths and in 2020 there were three. If we are only looking at this short period, there are an inordinate number of homicides,” Margrét Valdimarsdóttir, associate professor of sociology who holds a PhD in criminology, told RÚV yesterday.

Margrét noted, however, that if the overall picture is considered, the murder rate is declining. A total of 25 homicide cases occurred between 2012 and 2023 – compared to 28 between 1999 and 2011.

“If we were to look at the last thirty years, there have been two murders on average per year. Since 1990, the population of Iceland has increased by 100,000, and a greater number of tourists visit Iceland every year compared to 20 to 30 years ago. Given this, the number of homicides per capita has actually decreased,” Margrét explained.

Gesturing towards the phenomenon of availability bias (i.e. the human tendency to rely on information that comes readily to mind when evaluating situations or making decisions), Margrét noted that public sentiment was often at the mercy of readily available information:

“I think that feeling is understandable. We are seeing a lot of media coverage on every case. And when there are so many cases in quick succession, it is natural that we feel as if there is a general change happening in society – that we somehow live in a more dangerous society,” she stated.

Grímur Grímsson, Chief Superintendent of the Icelandic Police’s central investigative department, struck a similar note during an interview with RÚV earlier this week: “Historically, Iceland has experienced an average of 1.7 to 1.8 homicide cases per year. Sometimes these incidents cluster together, followed by periods of relative calm. Hence, we do not attribute any particular meaning to this pattern at present.”

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.

Median Age in Iceland Lower Than Anywhere in European Union

Iceland flag national team

According to new data published by Eurostat last week, the median age of the European Union population was 44.4 years old as of January 1, 2022. The median age in Iceland, 36.7, is far lower—lower in fact, than in any country in the EU.

Iceland is not a member of the EU, but it is part of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), along with Lichtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. Eurostat measures the median age in EFTA countries alongside that of countries in the EU.

In 2022, the median age in EU countries ranged from 38.8 in Ireland and 39.7 in Luxembourg to 46.8 in Portugal, 46.1 in Greece, and 48.0 in Italy.

The median age in the EU has increased by 2.5 years since 2012, when it was 41.9 years. This is an average of .25 years annually. Iceland’s median age has also increased since 2012, but less than it has in the EU: it’s only gone up 1.4 years in the last ten years. The only EU countries that did not see an increase in their median age last year were Malta and Sweden. There was no change at all in Malta, where the median age remains 40.4 years. Sweden’s median age went down, if only incrementally, from 40.8 years in 2012 to 40.7 years in 2022.

Europe facing a ‘marked transition towards a much older population structure’

The recent Eurostat findings also measured what it calls the “old-age dependency ratio,” that is, “the number of elderly people (aged 65 and over) compared to the number of people of working age (15-64).” In 2022, more than one fifth of the EU population (21.1%) was aged 65 and over. Demographic aging is “likely to be of major significance in the coming decades,” reads the report. “Consistently low birth rates and higher life expectancy are transforming the shape of the EU’s age pyramid; probably the most important change will be the marked transition towards a much older population structure.”

As of 2022, the old-age dependency ratio in the EU increased to 33%, up 5.9 percentage points (pp) from 27.1%  in 2012. “This indicator varied among EU members,” explains the report, “but remained above 20% in all of them.” This is true in Iceland as well, where the old-age dependency ratio in 2022 was 22.5%, up from 18.9% in 2012.

Across the EU, there was an average increase of 3.1 pp in the share of the population aged 65 or over between 2012 and 2022. Considered alone, Iceland had less of an increase in this indicator, only going up 2.4 pp over ten years, but the country still experienced more of an increase in this indicator that a number of countries surveyed, including Latvia (2.3 pp), Switzerland (1.8 pp), Austria (1.6 pp), Sweden (1.5 pp), Germany (1.4 pp), and Luxembourg (.8 pp).

These findings are significant and are expected to dramatically impact daily life and economies throughout Europe in the future. As the Eurostat report explains, “As a result of demographic change, the proportion of people of working age in the EU is shrinking while the relative number of those retired is expanding. The share of older people in the total population is expected to increase significantly in the coming decades. This may, in turn, lead to an increased burden on those of working age to provide for the social expenditure required by the ageing population for a range of related services.”

See Eurostat’s full summary of its findings, in English, here.

Anna Overtakes Guðrún as Most Common First Name for Women

The group was ready for their swim across the English Channel

Anna is now the most common first name for women in Iceland. The most common name for men is currently Jón.

This per a new name and birthday survey published by Statistics Iceland.

There are 4,782 women with the first name Anna in Iceland; 4,472 women are named Guðrún. Kristín (3,383), Sigríður (3,192), and Margrét (also spelled Margrjet and Margret; 2,838) round out the remaining top five women’s names. This is the first time that Guðrún has not been the most common first name for women in the country.

Most Common Given Names for Women, according to the National Registry, January 1, 2023; via Statistics Iceland

The top ten men’s names in Iceland have been the same since 2018. Jón is still the most popular, with 5,052 men bearing that name, followed by Sigurður (4,073), Guðmundur (3,838), Gunnar (3,074), and Ólafur/Olav (2,743).

Most Common Given Names for Men, according to the National Registry, January 1, 2023; via Statistics Iceland

Double names have always been popular in Iceland, and Statistics Iceland has also been keeping records on the most common combinations. The most common double names for women are currently: Anna María, Anna Kristín, and Anna Margrét. These haven’t changed since 2018. The top two double names for men have been the same since 2018: Jón Þór and Gunnar Þór. This year, however, there’s been a shake-up with the third most popular double name for men, with Arnar Freyr overtaking Jón Ingi.

Anna, Jón not among most popular names for babies born in 2021

Although Jón and Anna may enjoy top ranking when it comes to the most common names overall, they don’t make the cut for babies born in 2021. The top three girls’ names that year were Emilía, Embla, and Sara; the top three boys’ names were Aron, Jökull, and Alexander. Björk and Ósk were the most popular second or middle names for girls; Freyr and Máni were the most popular ones for boys.

More common to have a summer or fall birthday than a winter one

Unsurprisingly, summer and fall birthdays are more common in Iceland than winter ones (October – March). Just over half of birthdays in Iceland—51.5%—land between April and September.

It’s then even more unusual to have a birthday on a major winter holiday in Iceland. As of this year, a total of 1,246 people living in Iceland were born on January 1, New Year’s Day; 780 people have Christmas Day birthdays and 861 were born on Christmas Eve, December 24. A February 29 birthday is uncommon everywhere, and this is true in Iceland, too. Only 234 Icelanders have Leap Year birthdays.

Inflation Rate Continues Climb, Now at 9.9%

currency iceland

The latest indicators from Statistics Iceland show a month-by-month increase in the Consumer Price Index of 0.85%.

Inflation now rests at 9.9%, where it last sat in July 2022. Inflation rates saw slight decreases in the fall of 2022, but continued to rise throughout the winter.

See also: September Inflation Drops to 9.3%

Consumers in Iceland have especially felt the effect of inflation on food prices, with staples like milk, eggs, and cheese being especially affected at 4.4%.

Other consumer goods affected include alcohol (5,5%), tobacco (5.5%), and new vehicles (9.8%).

consumer price index iceland
Statistics Iceland

However, Statistics Iceland points out that many clearance sales after the holiday season have driven down the cost of some consumer goods in Iceland, such as clothing (-8.4%) and household appliances (-6.2%). Airfares have likewise decreased by around 9%.

With Efling trade union still in negotiations, read more about how interest rates could affect contract re-negotiations.

US Citizens Account for a Third of All Airport Departures in September

Travellers Keflavik airport

One hundred seventy-seven thousand people departed from Keflavík international airport in September, new data from the Icelandic Tourist Board shows. This makes last month the fourth busiest September the airport has seen since the Tourist Board started keeping such records. Last month, departures at Leif Eiríksson International Airport were 76% of what they were at their peak in 2018.

US citizens accounted for a third of all departures

Most of September’s recorded departures can be attributed to ten nations, with Americans making up the largest proportion of travellers, or 30.1%. All told, 53,315 Americans departed from Keflavík last month. Americans have made up Iceland’s largest block of foreign visitors since 2013 and this year’s numbers are similar to those recorded in 2017.

Germany came in a distant second, with 15,965 departures (9%) in September, followed by 10,791 travellers (6%) from the UK, 8,538 travellers from Spain, and 8,345 from France (roughly 4.7% each). The top ten was then rounded out by Poland (7,639 departures; 4.3%), The Netherlands (7,267; 4.1%), Canada (7,003; 3.9%), Italy (5,887; 3.3%), and Denmark (5,439; 3%).

Over a million foreign tourists since the start of the year

As an increasing number of people return to international travel post-COVID, tourism in Iceland is clearly on the rebound. Since the start of the year, 1.3 million foreign travellers have departed from Iceland, compared to 445,000 departures between January and September of last year. Even so, this year’s numbers are about 277,000 departures short of what they were in 2019.

Icelanders travelling in record numbers

Roughly 60,000 Icelanders travelled abroad in September, making it locals’ most-travelled September ever. Since January, 441,000 Icelanders have departed from Keflavík, which is 95% of the total number of Icelanders who flew abroad during the same time period in 2017, 87% of the total who flew abroad between January and September 2018, and 94% of the same count in 2019.

More Overnight Stays Booked This June Than Pre-Pandemic

Icelandair Marina Hotel

Foreign tourists booked 405,000 overnight stays in Icelandic hotels in June 2022, which is an increase of 6%, or roughly 23,000 more stays than were booked in June 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic. Túristi reports that there was also a jump in hotel bookings among Icelanders, with just over 91,000 overnight stays booked in June 2022, as compared to 38,000 in June 2019.

These were among the findings in a new report issued by Statistics Iceland on Friday.

Americans have had by far the most overnight bookings in Iceland over the years: 127,163 in 2019 up to 140,651 in 2022, for an increase of 11% between the years. Icelanders had the second most overnight bookings in June 2022, or 91,388 to be exact. Percentage-wise, this is the most significant increase by nationality since the pre-pandemic years. Germans had the third most bookings by total in June 2022: 58,453, or a 27% increase from the 46,170 overnight stays they booked in June 2019. In terms of percentage increases, however, Italians had the next highest increase in overnight June bookings after Icelanders: 11,728 in June 2022, or an increase of 89% from 6,200 in June 2019.

The new figures show that between June of this year and last year, 2021, occupancy rates around Iceland went up from 40% to 78.8%. Regionally, the biggest jump in hotel bookings was, unsurprisingly, in the capital region, with 5,400 hotel rooms booked in 2022 versus 3,277 in 2021. The second largest increase was seen in the Southwest: 1,017 in 2022, up from 880 in 2021. East Iceland has seen the least change in overnight stays in the last year, with only two more overnight stays booked in 2022 (441) than in 2021 (439).

Take a look at a summary of Statistics Iceland’s new overnight stay data on their website, in English, here.

Icelandic Student Takes Second Place in European Statistics Competition

Ólöf María Steinarsdóttir, a student at Reykjavík’s Technical College, won second place in the 16-18 age group of the European Statistics Competition (ESC) for her statistical analysis of why Iceland has such high greenhouse gas emissions per capita. RÚV reports that 17,000 students from 19 countries took part in the competition.

The ESC is a competition organized by Eurostat and participating national statistical institutes, aimed at encouraging secondary students to become literate in statistics and official statistical sources. The competition is divided into two phases, national and European. Participants first participate at the national level and then those winners proceed to the European finals. This is the fifth year the competition has been held, but the first year Iceland has participated.

After winning the national competition in Iceland, Ólöf María and her fellow finalists were asked to produce two-minute videos on the environment. “Contestants had to present their findings on what official statistics tell about the environment in their country/region,” explains the press release on the Eurostat website. “The students produced really powerful videos, some even in the form of a rap song. Their message is clear: we need to build (statistical) knowledge about environmental issues and take action!” A jury of European experts reviewed the 66 submissions and selected the top five videos in the 14 – 16 age group (32 submissions) and the 16 – 18 age group (34 submissions). Ólöf María’s video placed second in the latter group, behind the team from Bulgaria. (A description of, and links to, all the top-placing videos can be found here.)

‘The Green Facade: The Story of Iceland Told by Statistics’

In her video, ‘The Green Facade: The Story of Iceland Told by Statistics,’ Ólöf María examines why Iceland produces 5.24x as much in emissions as its larger European neighbours. This despite the fact that on a household-level, emissions are low in Iceland, and have been consistently so for over 25 years. Industry, and most specifically aluminum production, produces 90% of Iceland’s emissions. See the full, two-minute video, in English, below.

At Least 35,000 New Apartments Needed in the Next Ten Years

Iceland needs to build 3,500 to 4,000 apartments a year in order to stabilize the housing market, RÚV reports. The last few years have seen a boom in housing construction, but this has recently slowed, possibly due to pandemic-related factors. Even if construction picks up again, however, market observers believe more aggressive action is needed to stabilize the market in the short-term.

See Also: Iceland’s Real Estate Prices See Highest Increase in Nordic Region

The local housing market gradually recovered after the 2008 financial crash, and the last three years in particular have seen considerable development. In 2021, a record 3,800 apartments were built. Even so, housing prices in Iceland have risen faster than anywhere else in Europe, driven up by the dwindling supply, as well as increased purchasing power and low interest rates.

New population projections from Statistics Iceland have thrown the housing shortage into stark relief; the country is growing at a faster rate than previously projected, which means that it’s imperative that Iceland have more housing as soon as soon as possible. “In our opinion, and the opinion of local municipalities, roughly 35,000 apartments will be needed in the next ten years,” said deputy director of Iceland’s Housing and Construction Authority (HCA) Anna Guðmunda Ingvarsdóttir. But instead of construction picking up to meet this demand, it’s actually slowed.

“Instead of around 3,000 apartments being built this year and next,” explains Anna Guðmunda, “we’ll have around 2,800-3,000. When what we really need is to be building 3,500 apartments—or better yet, 4,000.”

Reason for stall is uncertain, but could be pandemic-related

The exact reason for the housing construction slow-down at a time when demand and prices are at their highest is a bit of a mystery. Many have suggested that there are simply not enough plots available for new builds, but according to the HCA’s data, this doesn’t seem to be the reality.

“The land issue […] is not as big a problem as has been suggested,” said Anna Guðmunda. “As an example, [the HCA] compared capital-area municipal associations’ development plans. We found that it would actually be possible to build 14,001 apartments now, provided that the plots are actually fit for construction and that those who own the plots are ready to get started. So what’s really holding things up—that’s something we need to take a closer look at.”

This analysis is in line with editor and Kjarninn journalist Jónas Atli Gunnarsson’s findings. “If you look at the statistics, there’s not really a shortage of plots,” he explained. “A lot of construction permits have been issued over the last three years, but hundreds of them are still unused. If that was the real estate market’s main bottleneck, all these permits would be new.”

“It could be the pandemic,” he continued. “We’ve had various economic downturns over the last two years and uncertainty about the economy reduces investors’ willingness to put money into developing residential properties. Then there is the supply chain breakdown, which reduces the number of construction supplies we get, and then lockdown protocols have reduced construction activity because people haven’t been able to come to work. So there are a lot of reasons why people aren’t building.”

No quick fixes

Even if there is a boom in construction, it will still take years for the market to fully recover, Jónas Atli continues.

“We’ve had this hiccup in the construction market—it takes so long to build apartments. So even though construction is booming now, it will take two years for new builds to go on the market. If demand remains this high in the meantime, we’ll continue to have this tension.”

Jónas Atli believes that in order to stabilize the market, municipalities should focus their attentions on construction, while the government and the Central Bank should work on slowing demand.

“This is done by lowering the maximum loan-to-value ratio, it’s also done by raising interest and maybe by setting limits where people can only buy maybe two or three apartments as investments. But these aren’t popular measures.”

And no matter what, there are no quick fixes to this situation, Jónas Atli continues.

“Unfortunately, any quick fixes wouldn’t work in the long-term. There is only one good solution, and that’s the long-term solution: building more.”