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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, civic engagement, and education and skills.

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 25 908 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 65%, 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, 71% of adults aged 25-64 have completed upper secondary education, below the OECD average of 75%. This is truer of men than women, as 73% of men have successfully completed high-school compared with 69% 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 83 years, three years higher than the OECD average of 80 years, and one of the highest in the OECD. Life expectancy for women is 84 years, compared with 82 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 in large urban areas, 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 81%%, and the highest rate 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 the highest figure 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 84% and for the bottom 20% it is an estimated 74%, 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, one of the highest scores in the OECD, where average life satisfaction is 6.6.

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

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OECD Environmental Performance Reviews: Iceland 2014

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