The population of Iceland will grow from 369 to 476 thousand in the next 50 years according to Statistics Iceland’s medium variant population projection. The high variant predicts a population of 626 thousand inhabitants while the low variant projects 355 thousand inhabitants.
The population increase in the medium and high variants are both due to positive net migration and natural increase, whereas the decrease in the low variant is mainly due to natural decrease exceeding the positive net migration. The projection variants are built according to different assumptions regarding economic growth, fertility and migration levels.
Statistics Iceland has published national projections for 2021–2070 describing the size and structure of the future population. The forecast is based on statistical models for migration, fertility and mortality.
From the year 2065, the number of annual deaths will exceed the number of births, according to the medium variant of the population projection. The low variant of the projection predicts that this change will happen in 2039. For the high variant, the number of births per year will exceed the number of deaths the entire period. Life expectancy at birth will grow from 84 years in 2021 to 89 years in 2070 for women and from 80 to 84 years for men.
For the medium and high variants, positive net migration of foreign nationals will more than outweigh the decrease due to negative net migration of Icelandic nationals. After a review of the migration data for the past two decades, Statistics Iceland decided to revise the assumptions for the long-term annual immigration of foreign nationals upwards in order to reflect the actual trends (see figure below). The medium variant goes from 3,500 to 4,900, and the high variant from 4,500 to 7,800. The assumptions for the low variants stay the same at 2,500 foreign nationals immigrating every year.
According to the medium variant population projection the population is predicted to change as follows:
- By 2043, 20% of the population will be older than 65 years and by 2061 the proportion will be above 25%.
- After 2049, the older age population (over 65 years) will become more numerous than the younger (less than 20 years old).
Although the population is ageing and the population growth is rather slow, the Icelandic population is and will continue to be younger than the population in the EU countries on average. For instance, the percentage of 0 to 15 years olds in Iceland will be above 16% the whole period of 2021-2070, according to the medium projection variant while the proportion is less than 15% in the EU countries. Older persons (aged 65 or over) already had a 20.6% share of the EU population in 2020, while in Iceland this proportion will not reach 20% until 2043.