At the end of October, there were 4,063 unemployed Poles in Iceland, Vísir reported this morning.
More than 20,000 Poles live in Iceland, which means that a little over one in every five Poles are unemployed. They also make up 20% of Iceland’s total number of unemployed people, despite comprising only about 5% of the total population. This comes following yesterday’s news that unemployment in Iceland is now higher than it was after the bank collapse peaked in early 2009, reported on by the Grapevine here.
Vísir spoke to Katarzyna Paluch, who had worked as a guide for three years when she lost her job in October. She explained that she has continued to learn Icelandic, which she has been trying to do over the three years that she has spent in Iceland.
“The Directorate of Labor has offered help with this, so now many people have started learning Icelandic, probably to increase the chances of getting a job,” said Katarzyna. She added that language barriers can be a particular problem for Poles in Iceland as many of them do not speak Icelandic and some do not speak English, so learning Icelandic is a helpful solution.
Agnieszka Ewa Ziolkowska, the Vice President of the labour union Efling, added that “It is very difficult for foreigners to be unemployed. Without a family network, there is a higher risk of being depressed.” She added that employers often find it easier to lay off foreigners than Icelanders, so they will choose to keep their Icelandic staff when given a choice between the two. She also emphasised that as many of the unemployed Poles were low-wage earners; they do not have savings to live on.
As reported, unemployment is particularly bad amongst foreign nationals: 41% of all unemployed people in Iceland belong to this group, despite making up only 14% of the country’s population.
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