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

The proportion of employed aged 25-64 ranged between 42-88.1% according to the Icelandic census 1 January 2021. The highest proportion was in a Minor Statistical Output Areas in the East and in an (MSOA) in Akranes. Today, Statistics Iceland publishes results from the census on inhabitants by employment status. This is the fourth release in the thematic series of the census.

The main conclusions are as follows:

  • 70.3% of the country's population aged 16-74 were employed according to the 2021 census, compared with 73.2% in the 2011 census.
  • There were more women than men among pension and capital income recipients (23,570 women and 17,369 men).
  • Most unemployed people were in the age group 25-34-year-olds (36% of all unemployed).
  • The highest proportion of employed aged 25-64 was in areas the East (88.2% and 88.1%) nd in an MSOA in Akranes (88%).
  • The highest share of employed men was in construction (94%) while the highest share of employed women was in human health and social work activities (79%).
  • Proportionally more female than male students aged 16-24 work with school (63% of women and 52% of men).

Proportion of employed slightly lower than in 2011
According to the 2021 census, 70.3% of the population 16 to 74 years old were employed (185,266 individuals). This is almost three percentage points lower than the proportion of the total population at this age in the last census in 2011. The unemployment rate was slightly higher in 2021 than in 2011, as was the proportion of those with pension or capital income. On the other hand, the proportion of students decreased between censuses. It should be noted that this ratio applies only to students who were exclusively in education, if they worked with school they are classified as employed (see discussion on students at the end of the release).

More men among employed and unemployed
More men than women were employed and unemployed in the 2021 census, with just over 72% of men aged 16-74 employed and 5.9% unemployed. There were also more men than women among those studying without working with schools. There were considerably more women among pension or capital income recipients.

There was little difference in the proportion of employed persons aged 25-64 by 10-year age groups (17% to 22%) in the 2021 census. There was more difference in the proportion of unemployed, with the highest unemployment rate in the 25-34 age group, decreasing with age.

The labour market still very gender-divided
Wholesale and retail trade was the most populous industry in the 2021 census, with a total 24,358 employed individuals. Human health and social work activities, education and manufacturing followed, all with over 20 thousand employed persons aged 16 and over. The labour market is still very gender-divided, with the highest share of men in construction, while the highest share of women was in human health and social work activities and education.

The highest proportion of employed persons aged 25-64 was in areas in the East and in Akranes
Focusing on those aged 25-64, the highest proportion employed was in Minor Statistical Output Areas in the East and in an MSOA in Akranes, just over 88%. Of the Capital region, the highest proportion was employed within one area in Mosfellsbær and Kjós, just under 87%. The lowest proportion of employed in the entire country was in three areas in the Southwest (41.9%-60.1%).

Immigrants from the Philippines with the highest proportion of employed
The number of employed aged 25-64 was 132,616 according to the 2011 census and 148,154 in the 2021 census. The employment rate was similar between censuses for the country's domestic population but lower in 2021 for immigrants than it was in 2011. In both groups, the employment rate was higher among men than among women.

Looking at the eleven largest groups of immigrants aged 25-64 by country of birth, the highest proportion of employed was among immigrants from the Philippines, just over 84%, which is a higher proportion than among the domestic population (81%). The highest unemployment rate was among immigrants from Poland and Lithuania while the lowest proportion was among immigrants from Thailand.

More students work with school
There were 45,453 students in the 2021 census, of which 29,748 were also employed. The proportion of those working through education increased between the 2011 and 2021 censuses. A higher proportion of women aged 16-24 worked with school compared with men. There was less difference between the sexes in the older age group, 25-year-olds and older, but a slightly higher proportion of employed for men than for women. The proportion of people working with school was much higher in the older age group.


Statistical Series – Population and housing census 1 January 2021 (published 14 November 2022)

Earlier releases from the 2021 census:
The Icelandic population 359,122 in the 2021 census
The number of immigrants has doubled since the 2011 census
More than a third of the population with tertiary education

Further Information

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