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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.


Northern Europe, island between the Greenland Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, northwest of the UK

Geographic coordinates:

65 00 N, 18 00 W


total: 103,000 sq km
land: 100,250 sq km
water: 2,750 sq km

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)

Natural hazards:

earthquakes and volcanic activity

Environment - current issues:

water pollution from fertilizer runoff; inadequate wastewater treatment

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


299,388 (July 2006 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 21.7% (male 33,021/female 32,021)
15-64 years: 66.5% (male 100,944/female 98,239)
65 years and over: 11.7% (male 15,876/female 19,287) (2006 est.)

Median age:

total: 34.2 years
male: 33.8 years
female: 34.7 years (2006 est.)

Population growth rate:

0.87% (2006 est.)

Birth rate:

13.64 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate:

6.72 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Net migration rate:

1.74 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 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: 0.82 male(s)/female
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 3.29 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 3.43 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.14 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 80.31 years
male: 78.23 years
female: 82.48 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate:

1.92 children born/woman (2006 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

0.2% (2001 est.)

people living with HIV/AIDS:

220 (2001 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

less 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 85.5%, Reykjavik Free Church 2.1%, Roman Catholic Church 2%, Hafnarfjorour Free Church 1.5%, other Christian 2.7%, other or unspecified 3.8%, unaffiliated 2.4% (2004)


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.)

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



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

Legislative branch:

unicameral Parliament or Althing (63 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 10 May 2003 (next to be held by May 2007)
election results: percent of vote by party - Independence Party 33.7%, Social Democratic Alliance 31%, Progressive Party 17.7%, Left-Green Movement 8.8%, Liberal Party 7.4%; seats by party - Independence Party 22, Social Democratic Alliance 20, Progressive Party 12, Left-Green Alliance 5, 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)

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 4% 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. 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. Growth had been remarkably steady in 1996-2001 at 3%-5%, but could not be sustained in 2002 in an environment of global recession. Growth resumed in 2003, and estimates call for strong growth until 2007, slowly dropping until the end of the decade.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$10.34 billion (2005 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):

$13.38 billion (2005 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

6.5% (2005 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$34,900 (2005 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 11.8%
industry: 22.3%
services: 65.9% (2005 est.)

Labor force:

165,900 (2005 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture: 10.3%
industry: 18.3%
services: 71.4% (2003)

Unemployment rate:

2.1% (2005 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:

lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

4.1% (2005 est.)

Investment (gross fixed):

27.1% of GDP (2005 est.)


revenues: $6.995 billion
expenditures: $6.761 billion; including capital expenditures of $467 million (2005 est.)

Public debt:

34% of GDP (2005 est.)

Agriculture - products:

potatoes, green vegetables; mutton, dairy products; fish


fish processing; aluminum smelting, ferrosilicon production; geothermal power, tourism

Industrial production growth rate:

14.2% (2005 est.)

Electricity - production:

8.619 billion kWh (2004)

Electricity - consumption:

8.619 billion kWh (2004)

Oil - consumption:

17,280 bbl/day (2003 est.)

Oil - imports:

15,470 bbl/day (2001)

Current account balance:

-$2.009 billion (2005 est.)


$3.215 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Exports - commodities:

fish and fish products 70%, aluminum, animal products, ferrosilicon, diatomite

Exports - partners:

UK 19.1%, Germany 17.3%, Netherlands 10.7%, US 9.3%, Spain 7%, Denmark 4.8%, France 4.1% (2004)


$4.582 billion (2005 est.)

Imports - commodities:

machinery and equipment, petroleum products, foodstuffs, textiles

Imports - partners:

Germany 12.6%, US 10.1%, Norway 9.5%, Denmark 7.6%, UK 6.8%, Sweden 6.3%, Netherlands 5.7% (2004)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$1.074 billion (2004 est.)

Debt - external:

$3.073 billion (2002)

Currency (code):

Icelandic krona (ISK)

Fiscal year:

calendar year

Telephones - main lines in use:

190,500 (2004)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

290,100 (2004)

Telephone system:

general assessment: extensive domestic service
domestic: the trunk network consists of coaxial and fiber-optic cables and microwave radio relay links
international: country code - 354; 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)

Television broadcast stations:

14 (plus 156 low-power repeaters) (1997)

Internet country code:


Internet hosts:

190,140 (2005)

Internet users:

225,000 (2005)


97 (2005)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 5
over 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2005)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 92
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 29
under 914 m: 60 (2005)


total: 13,028 km
paved/oiled gravel: 4,343 km
unpaved: 8,685 km (2005)

Merchant marine:

total: 2 ships (1000 GRT or over) 4,479 GRT/1,296 DWT
by type: cargo 1, passenger/cargo 1
registered in other countries: 30 (Antigua and Barbuda 7, Belize 1, Denmark 1, Faroe Islands 3, Gibraltar 1, Malta 4, Norway 3, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 10) (2005)

Ports and terminals:

Grundartangi, Hafnarfjordur, Hornafjordhur, Reykjavik, Seydhisfjordhur

Military branches:

no regular armed forces; Icelandic National Police, Icelandic Coast Guard (Islenska Landhelgisgaeslan) subordinate to Ministry of Justice, Icelandic Crisis Response Unit (2006)

Military - note:

defense is provided by the US-manned Icelandic Defense Force (IDF) headquartered at Keflavik

Disputes - international:

Iceland disputes Denmark's alignment of the Faroe Islands' fisheries median line; Iceland, the UK, and Ireland dispute Denmark's claim that the Faroe Islands' continental shelf extends beyond 200 nm