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One Fourth Of Unemployed Icelanders Are University Graduates

One Fourth Of Unemployed Icelanders Are University Graduates

Alice Demurtas
Words by
Photos by
Art Bicnick

Published February 16, 2018

The second largest group affected by unemployment in Iceland is comprised of university graduates, RÚV reports—right after individuals who only hold a primary school degree.

Although the unemployment rate in Iceland is extremely low compared to other European countries (the youth unemployment rate in countries like Greece, Spain and Italy fluctuates between 37% and 47%), it has been rapidly increasing in the past months and is now reaching the 2.4% mark. One fourth of this group, which amounts to about 1,100 people, has completed a university degree, including 54 lawyers, 33 teachers, 18 engineers and 890 individuals with other degrees. The number of university graduates who cannot find a job is twice as high as that of individuals who hold only a secondary school diploma.

A growing service industry

The report is particularly interesting considering that Icelandic schools at every level are severely understaffed, so much so that a number of schools in remote areas of the country have begun hiring individuals who haven’t acquired a teaching license.

“It’s extremely unpleasant to know that the rate of unemployment is higher among people with a university education, and who are thoroughly prepared for life,” the president of The Directorate of Labour Gissur Pétursson says. “The recent growth registered in the job market hasn’t benefitted graduates in the same way as we had expected.”

“Over 4000 new jobs have been created in the tourism industry since 2010.”

This is possibly due to the fact that said growth has mostly been registered in the service/tourism industry where, according to the 2017 OECD Economic Survey, over 4,000 new jobs have been created since 2010. As the need for a university degree in the service industry is decidedly lower than for other jobs, said positions often attract more low-skilled workers. The Directorate of Labour has therefore addressed government institutions as well as local municipalities, encouraging them to pay particular attention to university graduates when hiring recruits for summer jobs.

The problem with summer jobs is that, by definition, they don’t last longer than 3-4 months. However, the Directorate of Labour insists that once an individual has gained access to the job market, there is a 70% likelihood that they will continue to either work in that position or move on to something else.


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