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Iceland today

Iceland is a country that is talked about on the news regularly, particularly because life here is pleasant. Here are a few basic answers as to the reasons for this success. 

The economic crisis

According to the Human Development Index, prior to 2008, Iceland was one of the world's most developed countries. Between 2003 and 2007 and after privatising the banks, Iceland turned its economy towards financial services and investment banking. 

In 2008, the country was struck head-on by a severe economic crisis : the inhabitants found themselves heavily in debt to make up for the failure of their banks. Unemployment which was virtually unheard of, rose sharply causing the greatest wave of emigration since 1887 (5,000 of the country's 300, 000 inhabitants left the country), the currency collapses... nevertheless, today, the country has succeeded in getting out of it.

Over a period of several months between 2008 and 2009 there were repeated demonstrations. Indeed, Icelanders were refusing that the state pay off the debts of the banks. Many months of protest and two referendums later, the implicated banks are declared bankrupt and their debts are not reimbursed by the state. New banks are established and some directors are indicted. The most heavily in debt households see a part of the money owed erased. A new constitution that allows everyone to take part and make suggestions for amendments is worked out. 

Rather than opting for a policy of austerity, Johanna Sigurdadottir's elected government is investing massively in culture, so much so that the sector is becoming one of the country's foremost industries. 

Today, with an unemployment rate in the region of 4% and a predicted growth rate of 4.5%, one of Europe's most spectacular, Iceland has come out of its crisis.

An egalitarian society

Iceland is the country in the world with the most egalitarian society between men and women. This is due to the country being lastingly marked by a very strong women's liberation movement in the 70s. Today, 80% of women are in the workforce, but inequalities in salary still persist (-13%). However, within the family, men take an active part in household chores and in raising the children. Maternity leave is a good example of this equality: there are 3 months for the mother, 3 months for the father and 3 months to be shared between them.

In 2010, gay marriage was legalized. Johanna Sigurdadottir, prime minister at the time and the first woman ever to lead Iceland, got married to her female partner the very day the law was promulgated.

An important portion of the government's budget is dedicated to a universal healthcare system. This healthcare system is one of the most effective in the world. Iceland is also the least polluted country in the world for several reasons: it is sparsely populated, geothermal energy is widely used and its citizens have a high ecological awareness. 

Even if Arnaldur Indridason's novels give the opposite impression, Iceland's crime rate is the lowest in the OECD. Some years, there are no homicides. In 2013, a man was shot dead by the police for the first time ever in Iceland. 

Gay Pride concert

Thus, a society in which men and women are equal, the handling of the economic crisis and a rich cultural life are some of the factors that explain Iceland's quality of life.

Marielle Awad
62 contributions
Updated 21 March 2016
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