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indicator value unit
Population 0.3 mil.
Visitors per year 0.5 mil.
Renewable energy 83.43 %

How’s Life?

Iceland performs well in many measures of well-being, as shown by the fact that it ranks among the top countries in several topics in the Better Life Index.

Money, while it cannot buy happiness, is an important means to achieving higher living standards. In Iceland, the average household net-adjusted disposable income per capita is lower than the OECD average of 23 938 USD a year.

In terms of employment, some 80% of people aged 15 to 64 in Iceland have a paid job, above the OECD employment average of 65%. Some 82% of men are in paid work, compared with 79% of women. People in Iceland work 1 706 hours a year, less than the OECD average of 1 765 hours.

Having a good education is an important requisite for finding a job. In Iceland, 71% of adults aged 25-64 have earned the equivalent of a high-school degree, below the OECD average of 75%. This is truer of men than women, as 73% of men have successfully completed high-school compared with 68% of women. In terms of the quality of its educational system, the average student scored 484 in reading literacy, maths and science in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). This score is lower than the OECD average of 497. On average in Iceland, girls outperformed boys by 20 points, a wider gender gap than the OECD average of 8 points.

In terms of health, life expectancy at birth in Iceland is 82 years, two years higher than the OECD average of 80 years. Life expectancy for women is 84 years, compared with 81 for men. The level of atmospheric PM10 – tiny air pollutant particles small enough to enter and cause damage to the lungs – is 17.6 micrograms per cubic meter, lower than the OECD average of 20.1 micrograms per cubic meter. Iceland also does well in terms of water quality, as 97% of people say they are satisfied with the quality of their water, considerably higher than the OECD average of 84%.

Concerning the public sphere, there is a strong sense of community and high levels of civic participation in Iceland, where 96% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need, higher than the OECD average of 89%. Voter turnout, a measure of public trust in government and of citizens’ participation in the political process, was 81% during recent elections; higher than the OECD average of 72%. Voter turnout for the top 20% of the population is an estimated 84% and for the bottom 20% it is an estimated 74%, slightly narrower than the OECD average gap of 11 percentage points.

In general, Icelanders are more satisfied with their lives than the OECD average, with 85% of people saying they have more positive experiences in an average day (feelings of rest, pride in accomplishment, enjoyment, etc.) than negative ones (pain, worry, sadness, boredom, etc.). This figure is higher than the OECD average of 76%.

For more information on estimates and years of reference, see FAQ section and BLI database.


OECD in Action

OECD Environmental Performance Reviews: Iceland 2014

This report is the third OECD review of Iceland’s environmental performance. It evaluates progress towards sustainable development and green growth, with a focus on the environmental aspects of Iceland's energy and tourism policies.

Read this report

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Iceland in Detail