Immigrant Labour Crucial To Economic Sustainability - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Immigrant Labour Crucial To Economic Sustainability

Published March 11, 2016

Photos by
BenAveling/Wikimedia Commons

Thousands of immigrants will be needed to enter the Icelandic job market every year for the economy to sustain itself, industry experts predict.

“We need foreign workers, untrained and specialists alike,” Guðrún Hafsteinsdóttir, Director of the Federation of Icelandic Industries (SI), told attendees at a seminar on the subject yesterday, Kjarninn reports.

By her estimates, Iceland is going to need 2,000 new foreigners employed each year for at least the next 15 years. This is due in part to thousands of Icelanders having left the country to live elsewhere, while the economy continues to grow.

In fact, Icelanders are moving out of the country in increasing numbers as the remaining population gets older. About 10% of Icelanders are over the age of 70, and that number is projected to reach 20% by 2050.

Additionally, RÚV reports that the number of tourists to Iceland this year is expected to be up by as much as 20% from last year, which would translate into about 1.5 million tourists in Iceland in 2016 – about 5 times the permanent population.

Anna Hrefna Ingimundardóttir, a research specialist at Arion Bank, says that in order to meet this demand, “thousands” of foreign workers will have to be brought to Iceland, as Icelanders themselves seem to have little interest in pursuing an education in the tourist industry.

Anna Hrefna added furthermore that tourism is approaching the maximum volume that the current infrastructure can sustain. Keflavík International Airport, for example, will very soon be too small, she says, while there has been no excess of vacant hotel rooms despite continued construction.

It should also be noted that foreign workers already comprise a sizable portion of the tourism industry. According to research conducted by the Social Science department of the University of Iceland for the Directorate of Labour in 2008, about two out of three companies in the tourism industry had foreigner workers on their staff.

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