Iceland

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Settled by Norwegian and Celtic (Scottish and Irish) immigrants during the late 9th and 10th centuries A.D., Iceland boasts the world's oldest functioning legislative assembly, the Althingi, established in 930. Independent for over 300 years, Iceland was subsequently ruled by Norway and Denmark. Fallout from the Askja volcano of 1875 devastated the Icelandic economy and caused widespread famine. Over the next quarter century, 20% of the island's population emigrated, mostly to Canada and the US. Denmark granted limited home rule in 1874 and complete independence in 1944. The second half of the 20th century saw substantial economic growth driven primarily by the fishing industry. The economy diversified greatly after the country joined the European Economic Area in 1994, but Iceland was especially hard hit by the global financial crisis in the years following 2008. Literacy, longevity, and social cohesion are first rate by world standards.

Geography

Location

Northern Europe, island between the Greenland Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, northwest of the United Kingdom

Geographic coordinates

65.00° N, 18.00° W

Area 108/257

total: 103,000 sq km

land: 100,250 sq km

water: 2,750 sq km

Area - comparative

slightly smaller than Pennsylvania; about the same size as Kentucky

Land boundaries

0 km

Coastline

4,970 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin

Climate

temperate; moderated by North Atlantic Current; mild, windy winters; damp, cool summers

Terrain

mostly plateau interspersed with mountain peaks, icefields; coast deeply indented by bays and fiords

Elevation

mean elevation:

elevation extremes:

lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m

highest point: Hvannadalshnukur 2,110 m (at Vatnajokull Glacier)

Natural resources

fish, hydropower, geothermal power, diatomite

Land use

agricultural land: 18.7%

arable land 1.2%; permanent crops 0%; permanent pasture 17.5%

forest: 0.3%

other: 81% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land

NA

Total renewable water resources

170 cu km (2011)

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)

total: 0.17 cu km/yr (49%/8%/42%)

per capita: 539.2 cu m/yr (2005)

Natural hazards

earthquakes and volcanic activity

volcanism: Iceland, situated on top of a hotspot, experiences severe volcanic activity; Eyjafjallajokull (elev. 1,666 m) erupted in 2010, sending ash high into the atmosphere and seriously disrupting European air traffic; scientists continue to monitor nearby Katla (elev. 1,512 m), which has a high probability of eruption in the very near future, potentially disrupting air traffic; Grimsvoetn and Hekla are Iceland's most active volcanoes; other historically active volcanoes include Askja, Bardarbunga, Brennisteinsfjoll, Esjufjoll, Hengill, Krafla, Krisuvik, Kverkfjoll, Oraefajokull, Reykjanes, Torfajokull, and Vestmannaeyjar

Environment - current issues

water pollution from fertilizer runoff; inadequate wastewater treatment

Environment - international agreements

party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Kyoto Protocol, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Transboundary Air Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling

signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification, Marine Life Conservation

Geography - note

strategic location between Greenland and Europe; westernmost European country; Reykjavik is the northernmost national capital in the world; more land covered by glaciers than in all of continental Europe

People and Society

Nationality

noun: Icelander(s)

adjective: Icelandic

Ethnic groups

homogeneous mixture of descendants of Norse and Celts 94%, population of foreign origin 6%

Languages

Icelandic, English, Nordic languages, German widely spoken

Religions

Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland (official) 73.8%, Roman Catholic 3.6%, Reykjavik Free Church 2.9%, Hafnarfjorour Free Church 2%, The Independent Congregation 1%, other religions 3.9% (includes Pentecostal and Asatru Association), none 5.6%, other or unspecified 7.2% (2015 est.)

Population 179/238

331,918 (July 2015 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 20.43% (male 34,653/female 33,161)

15-24 years: 14.03% (male 23,661/female 22,914)

25-54 years: 40.09% (male 67,183/female 65,871)

55-64 years: 11.67% (male 19,502/female 19,230)

65 years and over: 13.78% (male 21,344/female 24,399) (2015 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 51.6%

youth dependency ratio: 30.8%

elderly dependency ratio: 20.8%

potential support ratio: 4.8% (2015 est.)

Median age

total: 36 years

male: 35.4 years

female: 36.7 years (2015 est.)

Population growth rate 100/233

1.21% (2015 est.)

Birth rate 140/224

13.91 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Death rate 155/225

6.28 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Net migration rate 29/222

4.43 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Urbanization

urban population: 94.1% of total population (2015)

rate of urbanization: 1.25% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas - population

REYKJAVIK (capital) 184,000 (2014)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.05 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.03 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 1.02 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 1.01 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.88 male(s)/female

total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2015 est.)

Mother's mean age at first birth

27 (2011 est.)

Maternal mortality rate 177/184

3 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)

Infant mortality rate 223/224

total: 2.06 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 2.2 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 1.91 deaths/1,000 live births (2015 est.)

Life expectancy at birth 6/224

total population: 82.97 years

male: 80.81 years

female: 85.22 years (2015 est.)

Total fertility rate 119/224

2.02 children born/woman (2015 est.)

Health expenditures 38/191

9.1% of GDP (2013)

Physicians density

3.48 physicians/1,000 population (2012)

Hospital bed density

3.2 beds/1,000 population (2012)

Drinking water source

improved:

urban: 100% of population

rural: 100% of population

total: 100% of population

unimproved:

urban: 0% of population

rural: 0% of population

total: 0% of population (2015 est.)

Sanitation facility access

mproved:

urban: 98.7% of population

rural: 100% of population

total: 100% of population

unimproved:

urban: 0% of population

rural: 0% of population

total: 1.2% of population (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate

NA

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS

NA

HIV/AIDS - deaths

NA

Obesity - adult prevalence rate 76/191

23.9% (2014)

Education expenditures 14/173

7.4% of GDP (2011)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 19 years

male: 18 years

female: 20 years (2012)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24 85/134

total: 10.7%

male: 13.6%

female: 7.8% (2013 est.)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Republic of Iceland

conventional short form: Iceland

local long form: Lydveldid Island

local short form: Island

etymology: Floki VILGERDARSON, an early explorer of the island (9th century), applied the name "land of ice" after spotting a fjord full of drift ice to the north and spending a bitter winter on the island; he eventually settled on the island, however, after he saw how it greened up in the summer and that it was in fact habitable

Government type

constitutional republic

Capital

name: Reykjavik

geographic coordinates: 64.09° N, 21.57° W

time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

Administrative divisions

8 regions; Austurland, Hofudhborgarsvaedhi, Nordhurland Eystra, Nordhurland Vestra, Sudhurland, Sudhurnes, Vestfirdhir, Vesturland

Independence

1 December 1918 (became a sovereign state under the Danish Crown); 17 June 1944 (from Denmark; birthday of Jon SIGURDSSON leader of Iceland's 19th Century independence movement)

National holiday

Independence Day, 17 June (1944)

Constitution

several previous; latest ratified 16 June 1944, effective 17 June 1944 (at independence); amended many times, last in 2013; note - a new constitution drafted in 2012 in the aftermath of the country's banking collapse was voted down in April 2013 by the parliament (2015)

Legal system

civil law system influenced by the Danish model

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction

Citizenship

citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only: at least one parent must be a citizen of Iceland

dual citizenship recognized: yes

residency requirement for naturalization: 3 to 7 years

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President Olafur Ragnar GRIMSSON (since 1 August 1996)

head of government: Prime Minister Sigmundur David GUNNLAUGSSON (since 23 May 2013)

cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the prime minister

elections/appointments: president directly elected by simple majority popular vote for a 4-year term (no term limits); election last held on 30 June 2012 (next to be held in June 2016); following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or majority coalition becomes prime minister

election results: Olafur Ragnar GRIMSSON elected president; percent of vote - Olafur Ragnar GRIMSSON (independent) 52.8%, Thora ARNORSDOTTIR (independent) 33.2%, Ari Trausti GUDMUNDSSON (independent) 8.6%, other 5.4%

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Althingi (parliament) (63 seats; members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by proportional representation vote to serve 4-year terms)

elections: last held on 27 April 2013 (next to be held in 2017)

election results: percent of vote by party - IP 26.7%, PP 24.4%, SDA 12.9%, LGM 10.9%, BF 8.3%, Pirate Party 5.1%, other 11.7%; seats by party - IP 19, PP 19, SDA 9, LGM 7, BF 6, Pirate Party 3

Judicial branch

highest court(s): Supreme Court or Haestirettur (consists of 9 judges)

judge selection and term of office: judges proposed by Ministry of Interior selection committee and appointed by the president; judges appointed for an indefinite period

subordinate courts: 8 district courts; Labor Court

Political parties and leaders

Bright Future (Bjort Framtid) or BF [Gudmundur STEINGRIMSSON]

Independence Party (Sjalfstaedisflokkurinn) or IP [Bjarni BENEDIKTSSON]

Left-Green Movement (Vinstrihreyfingin) or LGM [Katrin JAKOBSDOTTIR]

Pirate Party (Piratar) [Birgitta JONSDOTTIR]

Progressive Party (Framsoknarflokkurinn) or PP [Sigmundur David GUNNLAUGSSON]

Social Democratic Alliance (Samfylkingin) or SDA [Arni Pall ARNASON]

International organization participation

Arctic Council, Australia Group, BIS, CBSS, CD, CE, EAPC, EBRD, EFTA, FAO, FATF, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (national committees), ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), MIGA, NATO, NC, NEA, NIB, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW, OSCE, PCA, Schengen Convention, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

Flag description

blue with a red cross outlined in white extending to the edges of the flag; the vertical part of the cross is shifted to the hoist side in the style of the Dannebrog (Danish flag); the colors represent three of the elements that make up the island: red is for the island's volcanic fires, white recalls the snow and ice fields of the island, and blue is for the surrounding ocean

National symbol(s)

gyrfalcon; national colors: blue, white, red

National anthem

name: "Lofsongur" (Song of Praise)

lyrics/music: Matthias JOCHUMSSON/Sveinbjorn SVEINBJORNSSON

note: adopted 1944; also known as "O, Gud vors lands" (O, God of Our Land), the anthem was originally written and performed in 1874

Economy

Economy - overview

Iceland's Scandinavian-type social-market economy combines a capitalist structure and free-market principles with an extensive welfare system. Prior to the 2008 crisis, Iceland had achieved high growth, low unemployment, and a remarkably even distribution of income. The economy depends heavily on the fishing industry, which provides 40% of export earnings, more than 12% of GDP, and employs nearly 5% of the work force. It remains sensitive to declining fish stocks as well as to fluctuations in world prices for its main exports: fish and fish products, aluminum, and ferrosilicon.

Iceland's economy has been diversifying into manufacturing and service industries in the last decade, particularly within the fields of software production, biotechnology, and tourism. In fall 2013, the Icelandic government approved a joint application by Icelandic, Chinese and Norwegian energy firms to conduct oil exploration off Iceland’s northeast coast. Abundant geothermal and hydropower sources have attracted substantial foreign investment in the aluminum sector, boosted economic growth, and sparked some interest from high-tech firms looking to establish data centers using cheap green energy, although the financial crisis has put several investment projects on hold.

Domestic banks expanded aggressively in foreign markets, and consumers and businesses borrowed heavily in foreign currencies, following the privatization of the banking sector in the early 2000s. Worsening global financial conditions throughout 2008 resulted in a sharp depreciation of the krona vis-a-vis other major currencies. The foreign exposure of Icelandic banks, whose loans and other assets totaled more than 10 times the country's GDP, became unsustainable. Iceland's three largest banks collapsed in late 2008. The country secured over $10 billion in loans from the IMF and other countries to stabilize its currency and financial sector, and to back government guarantees for foreign deposits in Icelandic banks. GDP fell 6.8% in 2009, and unemployment peaked at 9.4% in February 2009. Since the collapse of Iceland's financial sector, government economic priorities have included: stabilizing the krona, implementing capital controls, reducing Iceland's high budget deficit, containing inflation, addressing high household debt, restructuring the financial sector, and diversifying the economy. Three new banks were established to take over the domestic assets of the collapsed banks. Two of them have foreign majority ownership, while the State holds a majority of the shares of the third. Iceland began making payments to the UK, the Netherlands, and other claimants in late 2011 following Iceland's Supreme Court ruling that upheld 2008 emergency legislation that gives priority to depositors for compensation from failed Icelandic banks. British and Dutch authorities claim Iceland owes approximately $6.5 billion for compensating British and Dutch citizens who lost deposits in Icesave savings accounts when parent bank Landsbanki failed in 2008.

Iceland’s financial woes prompted an initial increase in public support to join the EU and the Eurozone, with accession negotiations beginning in July 2010. However, the election of a new center-right government and declining public support amidst the ongoing Eurozone crisis led to the suspension of negotiations in mid-2013.

GDP (purchasing power parity) 153/230

$15.01 billion (2015 est.)

$14.48 billion (2014 est.)

$14.22 billion (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$16.74 billion (2015 est.)

GDP - real growth rate 69/225

3.7% (2015 est.)

1.8% (2014 est.)

3.9% (2013 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP) 30/230

$46,600 (2015 est.)

$44,500 (2014 est.)

$43,700 (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars

Gross national saving 60/179

23.4% of GDP (2015 est.)

20.2% of GDP (2014 est.)

20.8% of GDP (2013 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 52.1%

government consumption: 23.2%

investment in fixed capital: 18.7%

investment in inventories: 0%

exports of goods and services: 54.8%

imports of goods and services: -48.8%

(2015 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 5.8%

industry: 20.9%

services: 73.3% (2015 est.)

Agriculture - products

potatoes, green vegetables; mutton, chicken, pork, beef, dairy products; fish

Industries

fish processing; aluminum smelting, ferrosilicon production; geothermal power, hydropower, tourism

Industrial production growth rate 130/202

1.5% (2015 est.)

Labor force 175/233

190,500 (2015 est.)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 4.8%

industry: 22.2%

services: 73% (2008)

Unemployment rate 33/207

3.8% (2015 est.)

3.6% (2014 est.)

Population below poverty line

NA%

note: 332,100 families (2011 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: NA%

highest 10%: NA%

Distribution of family income - Gini index 128/144

28 (2006)

25 (2005)

Budget

revenues: $6.914 billion

expenditures: $6.885 billion (2015 est.)

Taxes and other revenues 35/219

41.3% of GDP (2015 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-) 24/220

0.2% of GDP (2015 est.)

Public debt 31/176

81.9% of GDP (2015 est.)

85.4% of GDP (2014 est.)

Fiscal year

calendar year

Inflation rate (consumer prices) 97/226

1.7% (2015 est.)

2% (2014 est.)

Central bank discount rate 72/156

5.4% (31 January 2012)

5.75% (31 December 2010)

Commercial bank prime lending rate 117/184

7.4% (31 December 2015 est.)

7.74% (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of narrow money 114/192

$3.262 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$3.213 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of broad money 111/193

$8.368 billion (31 December 2013 est.)

$8.12 billion (31 December 2013 est.)

Stock of domestic credit 86/191

$19.37 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$18.36 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares 95/121

$2.825 billion (31 December 2012 est.)

$2.021 billion (31 December 2011)

$1.996 billion (31 December 2010 est.)

Current account balance 41/197

$772 million (2015 est.)

$581 million (2014 est.)

Exports 114/224

$4.4 billion (2015 est.)

$4.848 billion (2014 est.)

Exports - commodities

fish and fish products 40%, aluminum, animal products, ferrosilicon, diatomite (2010 est.)

Exports - partners

Netherlands 29.2%, UK 11.2%, Spain 7.4%, Germany 6%, France 5%, US 4.9%, Russia 4.9%, Norway 4.5% (2014)

Imports 127/223

$4.577 billion (2015 est.)

$4.954 billion (2014 est.)

Imports - commodities

machinery and equipment, petroleum products, foodstuffs, textiles

Imports - partners

Norway 14.7%, US 10.1%, Germany 7.6%, Denmark 7.6%, China 7.4%, Netherlands 6.6%, UK 6%, Brazil 5.4% (2014)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold 92/170

$5.289 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$4.176 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Debt - external 52/206

$97.87 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

$107.5 billion (31 December 2013 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home

$NA

$9.2 billion (31 December 2008 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad

$NA (31 December 2011)

$8.8 billion (31 December 2008)

Exchange rates

Icelandic kronur (ISK) per US dollar -

130.1 (2015 est.)

116.77 (2014 est.)

116.77 (2013 est.)

125.08 (2012 est.)

115.95 (2011 est.)

Energy

Electricity - production 78/220

17.43 billion kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - consumption 75/219

16.94 billion kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - exports 151/218

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - imports 161/219

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity 97/214

2.658 million kW (2012 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels 205/214

4.3% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels 110/214

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants 22/214

70.6% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources 8/212

25.1% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Crude oil - production 149/214

0 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Crude oil - exports 139/214

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Crude oil - imports 206/214

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves 148/215

0 bbl (1 January 2015 est.)

Refined petroleum products - production 196/214

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption 138/212

16,310 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports 107/214

1,831 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports 125/213

15,040 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Natural gas - production 203/216

0 cu m (2014 est.)

Natural gas - consumption 156/215

0 cu m (2014 est.)

Natural gas - exports 117/215

0 cu m (2014 est.)

Natural gas - imports 210/214

0 cu m (2014 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves 152/212

0 cu m (1 January 2014 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy 137/212

3.505 million Mt (2012 est.)

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines 131/219

total subscriptions: 170,000

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 52 (2014 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular 175/217

total: 370,000

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 113 (2014 est.)

Telephone system

general assessment: telecommunications infrastructure is modern and fully digitized, with satellite-earth stations, fiber-optic cables, and an extensive broadband network

domestic: liberalization of the telecommunications sector beginning in the late 1990s has led to increased competition especially in the mobile services segment of the market

international: country code - 354; the CANTAT-3 and FARICE-1 submarine cable systems provide connectivity to Canada, the Faroe Islands, UK, Denmark, and Germany; a planned new section of the Hibernia-Atlantic submarine cable will provide additional connectivity to Canada, US, and Ireland; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean), 1 Inmarsat (Atlantic and Indian Ocean regions); note - Iceland shares the Inmarsat earth station with the other Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden) (2011)

Broadcast media

state-owned public TV broadcaster operates 1 TV channel nationally; several privately owned TV stations broadcast nationally and roughly another half-dozen operate locally; about one-half the households utilize multi-channel cable or satellite TV services; state-owned public radio broadcaster operates 2 national networks and 4 regional stations; 2 privately owned radio stations operate nationally and another 15 provide more limited coverage (2007)

Radio broadcast stations

AM 3, FM about 70, shortwave 1 (2008)

Television broadcast stations

14 (plus 156 repeaters) (1997)

Internet country code

.is

Internet hosts 56/232

369,969 (2012)

Internet users 141/217

total: 316,400

percent of population: 96.5% (2014 est.)

Transportation

Airports 60/236

96 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 7

over 3,047 m: 1

1,524 to 2,437 m: 3

914 to 1,523 m: 3 (2013)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 89

1,524 to 2,437 m: 3

914 to 1,523 m: 26

under 914 m: 60 (2013)

Roadways 126/223

total: 12,890 km

paved/oiled gravel: 4,782 km (excludes urban roads)

unpaved: 8,108 km (2012)

Merchant marine 141/156

total: 2

by type: passenger/cargo 2

registered in other countries: 19 (Antigua and Barbuda 10, Belize 1, Faroe Islands 4, Finland 1, Gibraltar 1, Norway 2) (2010)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Grundartangi, Hafnarfjordur, Reykjavik

Military and Security

Military branches

no regular military forces; Icelandic National Police; Icelandic Coast Guard (2013)

Military expenditures 131/132

0.13% of GDP (2012)

0.14% of GDP (2011)

0.13% of GDP (2010)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

Iceland, the UK, and Ireland dispute Denmark's claim that the Faroe Islands' continental shelf extends beyond 200 nm; the European Free Trade Association Surveillance Authority filed a suit against Iceland, claiming the country violated the European Economic Area agreement in failing to pay minimum compensation to Icesave depositors

Refugees and internally displaced persons

stateless persons: 119 (2014)