Introduction    Iceland Top of Page
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 Althing, 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. Limited home rule from Denmark was granted in 1874 and complete independence attained 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    Iceland Top of Page
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
Map references:
total: 103,000 sq km
land: 100,250 sq km
water: 2,750 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly smaller than Kentucky
Land boundaries:
0 km
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
temperate; moderated by North Atlantic Current; mild, windy winters; damp, cool summers
mostly plateau interspersed with mountain peaks, icefields; coast deeply indented by bays and fiords
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:
arable land: 0.07%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 99.93% (2005)
Irrigated land:
Total renewable water resources:
170 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 0.17 cu km/yr (34%/66%/0%)
per capita: 567 cu m/yr (2003)
Natural hazards:
earthquakes and volcanic activity
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    Iceland Top of Page
308,910 (July 2010 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 20.5% (male 32,092/female 31,180)
15-64 years: 67.1% (male 104,904/female 102,405)
65 years and over: 12.4% (male 17,435/female 20,894) (2010 est.)
Median age:
total: 35.4 years
male: 34.9 years
female: 35.8 years (2010 est.)
Population growth rate:
0.699% (2010 est.)
Birth rate:
13.36 births/1,000 population (2010 est.)
Death rate:
6.9 deaths/1,000 population (July 2010 est.)
Net migration rate:
0.54 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2010 est.)
urban population: 92% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 0.8% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.83 male(s)/female
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2010 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 3.21 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 3.36 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.07 deaths/1,000 live births (2010 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 80.79 years
male: 78.63 years
female: 83.04 years (2010 est.)
Total fertility rate:
1.9 children born/woman (2010 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.2% (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
220 (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
fewer than 100 (2003 est.)
noun: Icelander(s)
adjective: Icelandic
Ethnic groups:
homogeneous mixture of descendants of Norse and Celts 94%, population of foreign origin 6%
Lutheran Church of Iceland 80.7%, Roman Catholic Church 2.5%, Reykjavik Free Church 2.4%, Hafnarfjorour Free Church 1.6%, other religions 3.6%, unaffiliated 3%, other or unspecified 6.2% (2006 est.)
Icelandic, English, Nordic languages, German widely spoken
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99% (2003 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 18 years
male: 17 years
female: 19 years (2006)
Education expenditures:
7.6% of GDP (2004)
   Government    Iceland Top of Page
Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Iceland
conventional short form: Iceland
local long form: Lydveldid Island
local short form: Island
Government type:
constitutional republic
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
1 December 1918 (became a sovereign state under the Danish Crown); 17 June 1944 (from Denmark)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 17 June (1944)
16 June 1944, effective 17 June 1944; amended many times
Legal system:
civil law system based on Danish law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Olafur Ragnar GRIMSSON (since 1 August 1996)
head of government: Prime Minister Johanna SIGURDARDOTTIR (since 1 February 2009);
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the prime minister
(For more information visit the World Leaders website )
elections: president, a largely ceremonial post, elected by popular vote for a four-year term (no term limits); election last held on 28 June 2004 (next to be held in June 2012); following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition usually the prime minister
note: the presidential election of 28 June 2008 was not held because Olafur Ragnar GRIMSSON had no challengers; he was sworn in on 1 August 2008
2004 election results: Olafur Ragnar GRIMSSON elected president; percent of vote - Olafur Ragnar GRIMSSON 85.6%, Baldur AGUSTSSON 12.5%, Astthor MAGNUSSON 1.9%;
Legislative branch:
unicameral Parliament or Althing (63 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held on 25 April 2009 (next to be held in 2013)
election results: percent of vote by party - Social Democratic Alliance 29.8%, Independence Party 23.7%, Left-Green Movement 21.7%, Progressive Party 14.8%, Citizens' Movement 7.2%, other 2.8%; seats by party - Social Democratic Alliance 20, Independence Party 16, Left-Green Alliance 14, Progressive Party 9, Citizens' Movement 4
note: the Citizens' Movement disintegrated in September 2009; three of its former MPs are now represented under the banner of The Movement and the fourth former MP is an independent
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court or Haestirettur (justices are appointed for life by the Minister of Justice); eight district courts (justices are appointed for life by the Minister of Justice)
Political parties and leaders:
Independence Party or IP [Bjarni BENEDIKTSSON, Jr.]; Left-Green Movement or LGM [Steingrimur SIGFUSSON]; Progressive Party or PP [Sigmundur David GUNNLAUGSSON]; Social Democratic Alliance or SDA [Johanna SIGURDARDOTTIR]; The Movement [Birgitta JONSDOTTIR]
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Hjalmar W. HANNESSON
chancery: House of Sweden, 2900 K Street NW #509, Washington, DC 20007
telephone: [1] (202) 265-6653
FAX: [1] (202) 265-6656
consulate(s) general: New York
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires Samuel WATSON
chief of mission(2011): Ambassador Luis E. ARREAGA
embassy: Laufasvegur 21, 101 Reykjavik
mailing address: US Department of State, 5640 Reykjavik Place, Washington, D.C. 20521-5640
telephone: [354] 562-9100
FAX: [354] 562-9118
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 anthem:

name: "Lofsongur" (Song of Praise)
lyrics/music: Matthias JOCHUMSSON/Sveinbjorn SVEINBJORNSSON
note: adopted 1944; the anthem, also known as "O, Guo vors Lands" (O, God of Our Land), was originally written and performed in 1874
   Economy    Iceland Top of Page
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 7% 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, new developments in software production, biotechnology, and tourism. Abundant geothermal and hydropower sources have attracted substantial foreign investment in the aluminum sector and boosted economic growth, although the financial crisis has put several investment projects on hold. Much of Iceland's economic growth in recent years came as the result of a boom in domestic demand following the rapid expansion of the country's financial sector. 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 6.6% in 2009, and unemployment peaked at 9.4% in February 2009. GDP growth is expected to be near zero in 2010. Since the collapse of Iceland's financial sector, government economic priorities have included stabilizing the krona, reducing Iceland's high budget deficit, containing inflation, 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. British and Dutch authorities have pressed claims against Icelandic Landsbanki to compensate their citizens for losses suffered on deposits held in that bank. The collapse of the financial system initially led to a major shift in opinion in favor of joining the EU and adopting the euro, although support has dropped substantially because of concern about losing control of their fishing resources and in reaction to measures taken by EU partners following the financial crisis.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$12.15 billion (2009 est.)
$13.01 billion (2008 est.)
$12.84 billion (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2009 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate):
$11.92 billion (2009 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
-6.6% (2009 est.)
1.3% (2008 est.)
5.6% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$39,600 (2009 est.)
$42,700 (2008 est.)
$42,500 (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2009 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 5.2%
industry: 24%
services: 70.8% (2009 est.)
Labor force:
180,900 (2009 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 4.8%
industry: 22.2%
services: 73% (2008)
Unemployment rate:
8.2% (December 2009 est.) 4.8% (December 2008 est.)
note: this figure climbed to 9.4% as of February 2009
Population below poverty line:
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
28 (2006) 25 (2005)
Investment (gross fixed):
18.6% of GDP (2009 est.)
revenues: $3.879 billion
expenditures: $5.488 billion (2009 est.)
Public debt:
95.1% of GDP (2009 est.) 56.5% of GDP (2008 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
12% (2009 est.) 12.7% (2008 est.)
Central bank discount rate:
11.5% (31 December 2009) 22% (31 December 2008)
Commercial bank prime lending rate:
NA% (31 December 2008) 19.29% (31 December 2007)
Stock of narrow money:
$4.83 billion (30 September 2009) $4.71 billion (31 December 2008)
Stock of broad money:
$3.44 billion (31 December 2008) $3.55 billion (31 December 2008)
Stock of domestic credit:
$NA (31 December 2008) $49.67 billion (31 December 2006)
Market value of publicly traded shares:
$1.67 billion (31 December 2009) $6.1 billion (31 December 2008) $40.56 billion (31 December 2007)
Agriculture - products:
potatoes, green vegetables; mutton, chicken, pork, beef, dairy products; fish
fish processing; aluminum smelting, ferrosilicon production; geothermal power, hydropower, tourism
Industrial production growth rate:
-10% (2009 est.)
Electricity - production:
16.84 billion kWh (2009 est.)
Electricity - consumption:
16.48 billion kWh (2009 est.)
Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2008 est.)
Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2008 est.)
Oil - production:
0 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - consumption:
19,880 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - exports:
2,975 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - imports:
17,510 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - proved reserves:
0 bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - imports:
0 cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - proved reserves:
0 cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
Current account balance:
-$1.03 billion (2009 est.) -$6.606 billion (2008 est.)
$4.218 billion (2009 est.) $5.399 billion (2008 est.)
Exports - commodities:
fish and fish products 40%, aluminum, animal products, ferrosilicon, diatomite
Exports - partners:
Netherlands 33.8%, UK 11.7%, Germany 11.5%, US 5.8%, Japan 4.9%, Norway 4.1% (2008)
$2.826 billion (2009 est.) $5.699 billion (2008 est.)
Imports - commodities:
machinery and equipment, petroleum products, foodstuffs, textiles
Imports - partners:
Norway 10.9%, Germany 10.4%, Sweden 9%, US 8%, Denmark 7.4%, China 6.8%, Netherlands 5.9%, UK 4.4%, Japan 4% (2008)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$2.541 billion (31 December 2009 est.) $2.5 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
Debt - external:
$3.073 billion (2002)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home:
$NA $9.2 billion (31 December 2008)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad:
$NA $8.8 billion (31 December 2008)
Exchange rates:
Icelandic kronur (ISK) per US dollar - 128.417 (2009), 85.619 (2008), 63.391 (2007), 70.195 (2006), 62.982 (2005)
   Communications    Iceland Top of Page
Telephones - main lines in use:
187,000 (2008)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
342,000 (2008)
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)
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 3, FM about 70, shortwave 1 (2008)
Television broadcast stations:
14 (plus 156 repeaters) (1997)
Broadcast media:
state-owned public television broadcaster operates 1 TV channel nationally; several privately-owned TV stations broadcast nationally and roughly another half-dozen operate locally; about 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)
Internet country code:
Internet hosts:
272,201 (2009)
Internet users:
250,000 (2008)
   Transportation    Iceland Top of Page
99 (2009)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 6
over 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 2 (2009)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 93
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 27
under 914 m: 63 (2009)
total: 12,869 km
paved/oiled gravel: 4,438 km (does not include urban roads)
unpaved: 8,431 km (2009)
Merchant marine:
total: 2
by type: passenger/cargo 2
registered in other countries: 37 (Antigua and Barbuda 12, Bahamas 1, Belize 2, Denmark 2, Faroe Islands 1, Gibraltar 1, Malta 5, Marshall Islands 3, Norway 3, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 7) (2008)
Ports and terminals:
Grundartangi, Hafnarfjordur, Reykjavik
   Military    Iceland Top of Page
Military branches:
no regular military forces; Icelandic National Police (2008)
Manpower available for military service:
males age 16-49: 75,259 (2010 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 62,705
females age 16-49: 61,392 (2010 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 2,318
female: 2,263 (2010 est.)
Military expenditures:
0% of GDP (2005 est.)
Iceland has no standing military force; under a 1951 bilateral agreement - still valid - its defense was provided by the US-manned Icelandic Defense Force (IDF) headquartered at Keflavik; however, all US military forces in Iceland were withdrawn as of October 2006; although wartime defense of Iceland remains a NATO commitment, in April 2007, Iceland and Norway signed a bilateral agreement providing for Norwegian aerial surveillance and defense of Icelandic airspace (2008)
   Transnational Issues    Iceland Top of Page
Iceland, the UK, and Ireland dispute Denmark's claim that the Faroe Islands' continental shelf extends beyond 200 nm

This page was last updated on 14 May 2009


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