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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, environmental quality and social connections, and above the average in income and wealth, subjective well-being, health status, 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 33 604 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 68%, and the highest rate in the OECD. Some 88% of men are in paid work, compared with 83% of women. Around 15% of employees work very long hours, more than the OECD average of 11%, with 24% of men working very long hours compared with just 6% of women.

Good education and skills are important requisites for finding a job. In Iceland, 77% of adults aged 25-64 have completed upper secondary education, lower than the OECD average of 78%. Around 77% of men have successfully completed high school, compared with 78% of women. 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 23 years, two years higher than the OECD average of 80 years. Life expectancy for women is 84 years, compared with 80 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 68%. Voter turnout for the top 20% of the population is an estimated 86% 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 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.


OECD in Action

OECD Economic Surveys: Iceland

OECD’s periodic surveys of the Icelandic economy. Each edition surveys the major challenges faced by the country, evaluates the short-term outlook, and makes specific policy recommendations. Special chapters take a more detailed look at specific challenges. Extensive statistical information is included in charts and graphs.

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Iceland in Detail