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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 above the average in social connections, subjective well-being, health status, environmental quality, personal security, and education and skills. It ranks below average in housing and work-life balance.

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 USD 29 016 a year.

In terms of employment, some 82% of people aged 15 to 64 in Iceland have a paid job, above the OECD employment average of 66%, and the highest rate in the OECD. Some 84% of men are in paid work, compared with 80% of women. 

Good education and skills are important requisites for finding a job. In Iceland, 73% of adults aged 25-64 have completed upper secondary education, below the OECD average of 76%. This is truer of men than women, as 74% of men have successfully completed high-school compared with 72% 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 PM2.5 – tiny air pollutant particles small enough to enter and cause damage to the lungs – is 7.2 micrograms per cubic meter, much lower than the OECD average of 14.05 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 81%, and one of 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 96% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need, higher than the OECD average of 88%, and one of the highest figures in the OECD. Voter turnout, a measure of citizens' participation in the political process, was 81% during recent elections; higher than the OECD average of 68%. Voter turnout for the top 20% of the population is an estimated 89% and for the bottom 20% it is an estimated 77%, 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, much higher than the OECD average of 6.5.

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


OECD in Action

OECD Economic Surveys: Iceland 2015

This 2015 OECD Economic Survey of Iceland examines recent economic developments, policies and prospects. The special chapters cover: Promoting stability and resilience; supporting long-run growth.

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Iceland in Detail