In the past, working in Iceland was not such a bad idea for expats. After all, the fishing industry brought with it a new economic growth in the second half of the 20th century. After joining the EU in 1994, Iceland diversified its economy even further, offering yet more opportunities to expats. However, the financial crisis in 2008 left its traces which Iceland is still trying to recover from. Despite the economic struggles, expats still benefit from the country’s high quality of life.
Expats contribute to an economy that it follows the Scandinavian model which combines a market economy with an extensive welfare aspect. The main sector is the fishing industry which contributes 40% of all export earnings and over 12% of the GDP. The fishing industry also employs about 5% of the work force in Iceland. Before the financial crisis affected the economy heavily, expats working in Iceland could benefit from a low unemployment rate, high growth, and the equal distribution of income. The economy had been diversified in the fields of biotechnology, software production, and tourism. Hydropower and geothermal sources were the reason for foreign investments, led to further economic growth, and attracted many foreigners to working in Iceland.
The financial crisis in 2008 caused the Krona to lose value and the country’s three largest banks to collapse. After receiving loans to stabilize the economy, Iceland seems to be slowly getting back on track. In 2012, the GDP rose by 2.7% and the unemployment rate fell to 5.6%. For the government, stabilizing its currency, reducing the high budget deficits, and restructuring the financial sector are just a few of the many priorities.
There is, of course, still hope for expats who dream of working in Iceland to find a job. A higher level of persistence, patience, and specialized qualification might be essential for this. It is best to start your job search before you pack your bags to move to Iceland. A first step is to search the internet for job opportunities in Iceland. On EURES, for instance, expats can search for jobs and find information about the country and their move abroad.
Employment agencies (ráðningarþjónustur) are another, and often the best, option for expats. These agencies are often free of charge for job seekers and particularly specialized expats ready for working in Iceland may find their dream job that way. It is a good idea to register with one or more agencies to benefit from their listed vacancies. In addition, you should have an occasional look at the classifieds section of local newspapers like Morgunblaðið or Fréttablaðið. On Sundays, both newspapers offer a special employment section to people working in Iceland. Keep in mind, however, that 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 the current employment situation and the job search within your profession. When all else fails (and even if it doesn’t), you should not underestimate the power of speculative applications and word-of-mouth. By contacting a company in Iceland for or by activating your business network, you might be able to get your hands on a job which has not even been advertised yet.
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