In 2015, the number of persons aged 25-64 with tertiary education exceeded the number of persons with education at the upper secondary level in Iceland. This was also the case in 2014, but the difference was within the confidence limits. In 2015, the difference was statistically significant and persons with tertiary education were 38.9% of the population of Iceland (64,600), 35.9% had completed upper secondary education (59,600) and 25.2% had completed basic education, i.e. shorter education than the upper secondary level (41,900), according to Statistics Iceland’s Labour Force Survey. There were 3,400 more persons with tertiary education than in 2014 while there were 2,200 fewer persons with basic education than in the previous year.
The increase in the number of persons with tertiary education is mainly due to more women with tertiary education. The decrease in the number of persons that have only completed basic education is also mainly due to an increase in the education of women. In 2003-2015 there were smaller changes in the educational attainment of men than women.
Younger people and inhabitants in the capital region have higher education
In general, younger people have completed more education than those who are older. In 2015, a total of 21.9% of 30-49 year olds had only completed basic education while 44.7% had completed tertiary education. On the other hand, 44.7% of the 65-74 year old age group had only completed basic education while 19.6% had completed tertiary education.
Considerable differences were observed in the educational attainment between residents in the capital region and in other parts of the country. In the capital region 19.7% of 25-64 year old residents had only completed basic education, while 46.5% had completed tertiary education. Outside of the capital region 35.0% of residents had only completed basic education and 25.5% had completed tertiary education.
Educational attainment lower in Iceland than in the other Nordic countries
The proportion of the 25-64 year old population of Iceland which has only completed basic education (25%) is higher than the OECD average (23%). On the other hand, more Icelanders have completed tertiary education than on average in the OECD, or 39% compared with 35% within the OECD.
Compared with other Nordic countries the proportion of persons who have only completed basic education is considerably lower in all the Nordic countries (13-20%) than in Iceland, and the share of the population with tertiary education is higher (40-43%) than in Iceland, with the exception of Denmark (37%).
About the data
The data are based on the Statistics Iceland Labour Force Survey. The Labour Force Survey is based on international definitions and standards. The sample frame includes all Icelandic and foreign citizens aged 16–74 who are registered in the National register of the population and are residing in Iceland. The total sample size in 2015 was 15,808. When those who had passed away and those who were living abroad had been deducted from the sample the net sample was 15,417 persons. The total number of usable answers was 11,902 which correspond to a 77.2% response rate. All results have been weighted by age and sex.