Country Information Database


Iceland Country Information

Flag of Iceland
Map of Iceland
Introduction Iceland
Settled by Norwegian and Celtic (Scottish and Irish) immigrants during the late 9th and 10th centuries A.D., Iceland boasts the world's oldest functioning legislative assembly, the Althing, established in 930. Independent for over 300 years, Iceland was subsequently ruled by Norway and Denmark. Fallout from the Askja volcano of 1875 devastated the Icelandic economy and caused widespread famine. Over the next quarter century, 20% of the island's population emigrated, mostly to Canada and the US. Limited home rule from Denmark was granted in 1874 and complete independence attained in 1944. Literacy, longevity, income, and social cohesion are first-rate by world standards.
Geography Iceland
Northern Europe, island between the Greenland Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, northwest of the UK
Geographic coordinates:
65 00 N, 18 00 W
Map references:
Arctic Region
total: 103,000 sq km
land: 100,250 sq km
water: 2,750 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly smaller than Kentucky
Land boundaries:
0 km
4,970 km
Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
temperate; moderated by North Atlantic Current; mild, windy winters; damp, cool summers
mostly plateau interspersed with mountain peaks, icefields; coast deeply indented by bays and fiords
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Hvannadalshnukur 2,110 m (at Vatnajokull glacier)
Natural resources:
fish, hydropower, geothermal power, diatomite
Land use:
arable land: 0.07%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 99.93% (2005)
Irrigated land:
Total renewable water resources:
170 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 0.17 cu km/yr (34%/66%/0%)
per capita: 567 cu m/yr (2003)
Natural hazards:
earthquakes and volcanic activity
Environment - current issues:
water pollution from fertilizer runoff; inadequate wastewater treatment
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Kyoto Protocol, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Transboundary Air Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification, Marine Life Conservation
Geography - note:
strategic location between Greenland and Europe; westernmost European country; Reykjavik is the northernmost national capital in the world; more land covered by glaciers than in all of continental Europe
People Iceland
304,367 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 21% (male 32,500/female 31,566)
15-64 years: 67% (male 103,231/female 100,545)
65 years and over: 12% (male 16,530/female 19,995) (2008 est.)
Median age:
total: 34.8 years
male: 34.4 years
female: 35.3 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate:
0.783% (2008 est.)
Birth rate:
13.5 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate:
6.81 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate:
1.13 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.83 male(s)/female
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 3.25 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 3.39 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.1 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 80.55 years
male: 78.43 years
female: 82.76 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate:
1.91 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.2% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
220 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
fewer than 100 (2003 est.)
noun: Icelander(s)
adjective: Icelandic
Ethnic groups:
homogeneous mixture of descendants of Norse and Celts 94%, population of foreign origin 6%
Lutheran Church of Iceland 82.1%, Roman Catholic Church 2.4%, Reykjavik Free Church 2.3%, Hafnarfjorour Free Church 1.6%, other Christian 2.8%, other religions 0.9%, unaffiliated 2.6%, other or unspecified 5.5% (2006 est.)
Icelandic, English, Nordic languages, German widely spoken
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99% (2003 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 18 years
male: 17 years
female: 19 years (2006)
Education expenditures:
7.6% of GDP (2004)
Government Iceland
Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Iceland
conventional short form: Iceland
local long form: Lydveldid Island
local short form: Island
Government type:
constitutional republic
name: Reykjavik
geographic coordinates: 64 09 N, 21 57 W
time difference: UTC (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions:
8 regions; Austurland, Hofudhborgarsvaedhi, Nordhurland Eystra, Nordhurland Vestra, Sudhurland, Sudhurnes, Vestfirdhir, Vesturland
1 December 1918 (became a sovereign state under the Danish Crown); 17 June 1944 (from Denmark)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 17 June (1944)
16 June 1944, effective 17 June 1944; amended many times
Legal system:
civil law system based on Danish law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Olafur Ragnar GRIMSSON (since 1 August 1996)
head of government: Prime Minister Geir H. HAARDE (since 7 June 2006)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the prime minister
elections: president, largely a ceremonial post, is elected by popular vote for a four-year term (no term limits); election last held 26 June 2004 (next to be held in June 2008); following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition is usually the prime minister
election results: Olafur Ragnar GRIMSSON 85.6%, Baldur AGUSTSSON 12.5%, Astthor MAGNUSSON 1.9%
Legislative branch:
unicameral Parliament or Althing (63 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 12 May 2007 (next to be held by May 2011)
election results: percent of vote by party - Independence Party 36.6%, Social Democratic Alliance 26.8%, Progressive Party 11.7%, Left-Green Movement 14.3%, Liberal Party 7.3%, other 3.3%; seats by party - Independence Party 25, Social Democratic Alliance 18, Progressive Party 7, Left-Green Alliance 9, Liberal Party 4
Judicial branch:
Supreme Court or Haestirettur (justices are appointed for life by the Minister of Justice); eight district courts (justices are appointed for life by the Minister of Justice)
Political parties and leaders:
Independence Party or IP [Geir H. HAARDE]; Left-Green Movement or LGM [Steingrimur SIGFUSSON]; Liberal Party or LP [Gudjon KRISTJANSSON]; Progressive Party or PP [Gudni AGUSTSSON]; Social Democratic Alliance or SDA [Ingibjorg Solrun GISLADOTTIR] (includes People's Alliance or PA, Social Democratic Party or SDP, Women's List)
Political pressure groups and leaders:
Icelandic Psychiatric Human Rights Group
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Albert JONSSON
chancery: Suite 1200, 1156 15th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005-1704
telephone: [1] (202) 265-6653
FAX: [1] (202) 265-6656
consulate(s) general: New York
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Carol VAN VOORST
embassy: Laufasvegur 21, 101 Reykjavik
mailing address: US Department of State, 5640 Reykjavik Place, Washington, D.C. 20521-5640
telephone: [354] 562-9100
FAX: [354] 562-9118
Flag description:
blue with a red cross outlined in white extending to the edges of the flag; the vertical part of the cross is shifted to the hoist side in the style of the Dannebrog (Danish flag)
Economy Iceland
Economy - overview:
Iceland's Scandinavian-type economy is basically capitalistic, yet with an extensive welfare system (including generous housing subsidies), low unemployment, and remarkably even distribution of income. In the absence of other natural resources (except for abundant geothermal power), the economy depends heavily on the fishing industry, which provides 70% of export earnings and employs 6% of the work force. The economy remains sensitive to declining fish stocks as well as to fluctuations in world prices for its main exports: fish and fish products, aluminum, and ferrosilicon. Substantial foreign investment in the aluminum and hydropower sectors has boosted economic growth which, nevertheless, has been volatile and characterized by recurrent imbalances. Government policies include reducing the current account deficit, limiting foreign borrowing, containing inflation, revising agricultural and fishing policies, and diversifying the economy. The government remains opposed to EU membership, primarily because of Icelanders' concern about losing control over their fishing resources. Iceland's economy has been diversifying into manufacturing and service industries in the last decade, and new developments in software production, biotechnology, and financial services are taking place. The tourism sector is also expanding, with the recent trends in ecotourism and whale watching. The 2006 closure of the US military base at Keflavik had very little impact on the national economy; Iceland's low unemployment rate aided former base employees in finding alternate employment.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$12.19 billion (2007 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate):
$20 billion (2007 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
3.8% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$40,400 (2007 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 5.2%
industry: 25.7%
services: 69.1% (2007 est.)
Labor force:
181,000 (2007 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 5.1%
industry: 23%
services: 71.8% (2005)
Unemployment rate:
1% (2007 est.)
Population below poverty line:
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
25 (2005)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
5.1% (2007 est.)
Investment (gross fixed):
27.5% of GDP (2007 est.)
revenues: $9.64 billion
expenditures: $8.602 billion (2007 est.)
Public debt:
27.6% of GDP (2007 est.)
Agriculture - products:
potatoes, green vegetables; mutton, dairy products; fish
fish processing; aluminum smelting, ferrosilicon production; geothermal power, tourism
Industrial production growth rate:
9% (2007 est.)
Electricity - production:
8.533 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 0.1%
hydro: 82.5%
nuclear: 0%
other: 17.5% (geothermal) (2001)
Electricity - consumption:
8.152 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2005)
Electricity - imports:
0 kWh (2005)
Oil - production:
0 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - consumption:
18,460 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - exports:
0 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - imports:
17,450 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - proved reserves:
0 bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - imports:
0 cu m (2005)
Natural gas - proved reserves:
0 cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Current account balance:
-$3.189 billion (2007 est.)
$4.793 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Exports - commodities:
fish and fish products 70%, aluminum, animal products, ferrosilicon, diatomite
Exports - partners:
Netherlands 21.3%, Germany 13.3%, UK 13.2%, Ireland 7.7%, US 7.3%, Spain 4.6%, Japan 4.3% (2007)
$6.181 billion (2007 est.)
Imports - commodities:
machinery and equipment, petroleum products, foodstuffs, textiles
Imports - partners:
US 13.7%, Germany 12.2%, Sweden 10.2%, Denmark 7.5%, Netherlands 5.7%, UK 5.4%, China 5.1%, Norway 4.6% (2007)
Economic aid - donor:
$6.7 million (2004)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$2.436 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external:
$3.073 billion (2002)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home:
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad:
Market value of publicly traded shares:
$27.8 billion (2005)
Currency (code):
Icelandic krona (ISK)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
Icelandic kronur per US dollar - 63.391 (2007), 70.195 (2006), 62.982 (2005), 70.192 (2004), 76.709 (2003)
Fiscal year:
calendar year
Communications Iceland
Telephones - main lines in use:
186,700 (2007)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
347,500 (2007)
Telephone system:
general assessment: telecommunications infrastructure is modern and fully digitized, with satellite-earth stations, fiber-optic cables, and an extensive broadband network
domestic: liberalization of the telecommunications sector beginning in the late 1990s has led to increased competition especially in the mobile services segment of the market
international: country code - 354; the CANTAT-3 and FARICE-1 submarine cable systems provide connectivity to Canada, the Faroe Islands, UK, Denmark, and Germany; a planned new section of the Hibernia-Atlantic submarine cable will provide additional connectivity to Canada, US, and Ireland; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean), 1 Inmarsat (Atlantic and Indian Ocean regions); note - Iceland shares the Inmarsat earth station with the other Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden)
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 3, FM about 70 (including repeaters), shortwave 1 (1998)
260,000 (1997)
Television broadcast stations:
14 (plus 156 repeaters) (1997)
98,000 (1997)
Internet country code:
Internet hosts:
270,942 (2007)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
20 (2001)
Internet users:
202,300 (2007)
Transportation Iceland
99 (2007)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 5
over 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2007)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 94
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 28
under 914 m: 63 (2007)
total: 13,058 km
paved/oiled gravel: 4,397 km (does not include urban roads)
unpaved: 8,661 km (2007)
Merchant marine:
total: 2 ships (1000 GRT or over) 4,704 GRT/729 DWT
by type: passenger/cargo 2
registered in other countries: 45 (Antigua and Barbuda 12, Bahamas 1, Belize 1, Faroe Islands 4, Gibraltar 1, Malta 7, Marshall Islands 3, Norway 3, St Vincent and the Grenadines 13) (2008)
Ports and terminals:
Grundartangi, Hafnarfjordur, Reykjavik
Military Iceland
Military branches:
no regular military forces; Icelandic National Police (2008)
Manpower available for military service:
males age 16-49: 74,896 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 62,342 (2008 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 2,393
female: 2,317 (2008 est.)
Military expenditures:
0% of GDP (2005 est.)
Military - note:
Iceland has no standing military force; under a 1951 bilateral agreement - still valid - its defense was provided by the US-manned Icelandic Defense Force (IDF) headquartered at Keflavik; however, all US military forces in Iceland were withdrawn as of October 2006; although wartime defense of Iceland remains a NATO commitment, in April 2007, Iceland and Norway signed a bilateral agreement providing for Norwegian aerial surveillance and defense of Icelandic airspace (2008)
Transnational Issues Iceland
Disputes - international:
Iceland, the UK, and Ireland dispute Denmark's claim that the Faroe Islands' continental shelf extends beyond 200 nm

This page was last updated on 2 October, 2008 Access Time: Sun, 26 Feb 2017 11:51:00 -0500