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indicator value unit
Population 0.3 mil.
Visitors per year 0.7 mil.
Renewable energy 84.7 %

How’s Life?

Iceland performs well in many measures of well-being relative to most other countries in the Better Life Index. Iceland ranks at the top in jobs and earnings and social connections, and above the average in income and wealth, subjective well-being, health status, environmental quality, personal security, civic engagement, and education and skills. It ranks below average in housing and work-life balance. These rankings are based on available selected data.

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 slightly lower than the OECD average of USD 30 563 a year.

In terms of employment, 86% of people aged 15 to 64 in Iceland have a paid job, above the OECD employment average of 67%, and the highest rate in the OECD. Some 89% of men are in paid work, compared with 83% of women. 

Good education and skills are important requisites for finding a job. In Iceland, 78% of adults aged 25-64 have completed upper secondary education, higher than the OECD average of 74%. In terms of the quality of its educational system, the average student scored 481 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 486. On average in Iceland, girls outperformed boys by 15 points, a much wider gap than the OECD average of 2 points.

In terms of health, life expectancy at birth in Iceland is 83 years, three 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 PM2.5 – tiny air pollutant particles small enough to enter and cause damage to the lungs – is 3.0 micrograms per cubic meter, much lower than the OECD average of 13.9 micrograms per cubic meter. Iceland also does well in terms of water quality, as 99% of people say they are satisfied with the quality of their water, considerably higher than the OECD average of 81%, and the highest rates in the OECD.

Concerning the public sphere, there is a strong sense of community and high levels of civic participation in Iceland, where 98% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need, the highest rate in the OECD, where the average is 89%. Voter turnout, a measure of citizens' participation in the political process, was 79% during recent elections; higher than the OECD average of 69%. Voter turnout for the top 20% of the population is an estimated 87% and for the bottom 20% it is an estimated 75%, slightly narrower than the OECD average gap of 13 percentage points.

In general, Icelanders are more satisfied with their lives than the OECD average. When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Icelanders gave it a 7.5 grade on average, much higher than the OECD average of 6.5.

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

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OECD in Action

OECD Economic Surveys: Iceland 2017

Iceland is the OECD's fastest growing economy. It has made a remarkable turnaround from the crisis, helped by booming tourism, prudent economic policies and a favourable external environment. Iceland has an egalitarian society with strong trade unions, very low inequality and high gender balance.

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Iceland in Detail