Working in Iceland?
Working in Iceland
At A Glance:
- Iceland recovery after the 2008 financial crisis has been impressive, in part thanks to the government’s unique management of the banks.
- Expats who are not citizens of EU/EEA countries must apply for a work and residence permit in order to work in Iceland.
- Iceland has a number of growing industries, including software production and tourism, which are contributing to the nation’s improving economic prosperity.
In terms of its economy, Iceland has been through some highs and lows. After joining the EU in 1994, Iceland was able to further diversify its economy, creating more job opportunities for expats. Despite the 2008 economic crisis which hit Iceland particularly hard, the country seems to be back on track for economic prosperity.
Iceland’s economy follows the Scandinavian model, comprising of a free market economy and an extensive welfare state. The main sector is the fishing industry which contributes 40% of all export earnings and over 12% of the GDP, as well as employing about 5% of the workforce.
Prior to the 2008 financial crisis, expats in Iceland benefitted from a low unemployment rate, high growth, and equal distribution of income. The crisis caused the Icelandic Krona to lose value, and, in a controversial move, the government allowed the country’s three largest banks to collapse. However, after receiving loans to stabilize the economy and reinventing itself with various reforms, Iceland has seen a remarkable recovery. In fact, in 2017, the unemployment rate is now 2.4% — almost the same as it was before the crisis.
There’s more to the economy than fishing: it has become increasingly diversified, attracting businesses in the fields of biotechnology and software production. Tourism is also vital — the number of tourists Iceland received in 2016 was almost 4.5 times their population. The country’s location also means that hydropower and geothermal sources are plentiful; they have attracted foreign investment which has furthered economic growth.
The Job Search in Iceland
For expats who dream of working in Iceland, persistence, patience, and perhaps certain qualifications will be needed. It is best to start your job search before you pack your bags; sites like EURES, for instance, allow you to search for jobs and find information about the country.
Employment agencies (ráðningarþjónustur) are often the best option for expats. These agencies are often free of charge for job seekers, and can help expats with certain expertise find their dream job. It is a good idea to register with one or more agencies. In addition, you could have a look at the classifieds section of local newspapers like Morgunblaðið or Fréttablaðið; on Sundays, both newspapers have a special employment section, however, all job ads are in Icelandic.
The local branch of your trade union (stéttarfélag) may also be able to help. They are usually well-informed when it comes to current vacancies in your sector. If all else fails, there’s no harm in contacting a company with a speculative application.
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