Immigrants now comprise nearly 20% of all working people in Iceland, and the percentage of foreigners on the job has been on the rise. These are amongst the findings of a new report from Statistics Iceland.
Of the 192,232 people in Iceland currently in the labour market in the first quarter of 2019, 36,844 from the ages of 16 to 74 were immigrants, the report details, comprising 19.2% of all working people. This figure is particularly striking when considering that immigrants only comprise roughly 10.9% of the total population of Iceland in 2018.
Furthermore, the percentage of foreign workers on the job market has been increasing over the past several years. When comparing the first quarters of 2013, 2016 and 2019 respectively, immigrants’ presence in the labour market went from 10%-15%, at most, in some regions of Iceland in 2013 to 25%-30% in 2019. The regions where immigrants have the strongest employment presence directly corresponds to regions with higher percentages of immigrants in general—namely, the Westfjords and Suðurnes.
As reported, most Icelanders feel positively about immigrants in the labour market, displaying a greater level of tolerance than many other countries. However, the exploitation of foreign workers is still an endemic problem. This is made manifest in many areas, including recent reporting that foreign workers are generally paid less than locals for the same jobs, but are at the same time less likely to apply for social benefits that would alleviate this pressure.