Please note that this press release was modified 19 April 2023.

These are the first results released from the Icelandic census 1 January 2021. The 2021 census is register-based as the previous census in 2011. Data in the 2021 census will be released according to theme. A census is a valuable source for different information about the population at a given time and provides a cross section of the country’s population that is not possible in other statistics.

The main findings are:

  • The Icelandic population was 359,122 on census day 1 January 2021. The population increased by 13.8% compared with the last census taken in 2011.
  • There was a population increase in all regions, the largest increase was in the Southwest (29%) and the smallest in the Westfjords (1.7%).
  • The proportion of women in the 2021 census was 49.0% compared with 49.9% in the 2011 census.
  • The proportion of people aged 67 years and older has increased, was 13.1% in 2021 but 11.0% in 2011.
  • The number of inhabitants in the 2021 census is lower than according to the Registers Iceland, a difference of nearly ten thousand people.

A 13.8% population growth between 2011 and 2021
The population of Iceland was 359,122 on census day, 1 january 2021, a 13.8% increase from the 2011 census, when the population stood at 315,556. When the first census was taken in 1703, the population stood at 50,358. The 1703 census was the first complete census conducted in Europe. The population increased in all but two censuses, in 1785 and 1890. The 2021 census is the 24th census taken in Iceland and it is conducted in accordance with laws and regulations of the European Economic Area.

Largest increase in the Southwest
The population grew in all regions in Iceland between 2011 and 2021. The region with the highest population growth was the Southwest, with 29% increase from 2011 (a gain of 6,094 people). Second highest was the South (which grew by 19.9%, a gain of 5,052 people) and the Capital region (which grew by 14.6%, a gain of 29,332 people). The smallest increases were in the Westfjords (1.7%) and in the Northwest (1.9%). On average there were 3.5 inhabitants per km2 in Iceland.

Even though the map above does not show a population decrease by region, there are decreases in some areas when data are broken down by the 42 Statistical Output Areas (SOA). For an example, the SOA West excluding Akranes shows a decrease, while the whole region, which includes Akranes, shows an increase.

The proportion of women has fallen slightly
Overall, there were 49.0% women (176,067) and 51.0% men (183,055) in Iceland in 2021. The proportion of women has fallen slightly since the 2011 census when women accounted for 49.9% of the population. New in the 2021 census is the division of the population by 205 Minor Statistical Output Areas (MSOA). Information on the population is usually broken down by municipality or region but information by SOA or MSOA is more suitable for analysis since the geographical distribution of inhabitants in Iceland is very uneven.

Home addresses can be looked up here to see which MSOA they belong to.

The proportion of children lower
The proportion of the population 67 years and over, was 13.1% (46,886 people) in the 2021 census compared with 11.0% in the 2011 census, which shows that the Icelandic population is ageing. Nearly two-thirds of the population (64.2%) were aged 18-66 (230,386 people). This is similar to 2011 (63.9%). The youngest age group, children from 0-17 years old, was 22.8% of the population (81,850 people), which is a lower proportion than in 2011 (25.1%).

The MSOAs with the highest proportion of children belong to the municipalities around Reykjavik and Reykjavik suburbs. The lowest proportion of children was in Reykjavik centre and nearby MSOAs. The lowest proportion was 8.1% in the MSOA Reykjavik: City centre – 0304 and the highest proportion was 37.2% in the MSOA Kopavogur: Vatnsendi – 2202.

Fewer people in the census than in the national registry
More people are recorded in the Icelandic national registry (368,791 people) than are included in the population according to the 2021 census (359,112 people). A total of 11,343 were not counted in the census and 1,674 were added to the census. The largest share of those who are not counted in the census are people who leave the country without reporting a change in domicile. To assess these discrepancies, Statistics Iceland conducted a sign of life study using a "random forest" statistical model. The model uses a variety of data, from sample surveys conducted by Statistics Iceland as well as public registers, to predict the number of people living abroad despite having a registered domicile in Iceland. The conclusion was that 7,701 persons live abroad despite being domiciled in Iceland in the national registry.

In addition, registered domiciles in the national registry were adjusted in the 2021 census according to information in other administrative registers. A total of 7,889 persons (2.3% of the total population) were adjusted, 61.6% of whom were transferred within municipalities and 38.4% between municipalities.

Statistics from the census will be released in stages by theme on a monthly basis. Statistics Iceland plans to release all census data before mid-year 2023. The next release will be on inhabitats‘ background in December.

Statistical Series – Population and housing census 1 January 2021


Further Information

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