Iceland Mag

10 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag


Growing diversity: Immigrants now 12% of Icelandic population, up just 2.1% 20 years ago

By Staff

  • Growing diversity Just two decades ago Iceland had only a handful of immigrants. Photo/Stefán Karlsson

With growing immigration Iceland continues to become a more diverse nation, figures from Statistics Iceland reveal. The latest figures show that immigrants now make up 12% of the population, up from 2.1% twenty years ago. A large share of these are foreign nationals who make up 8.9% of the total population, up from 1.9% two decades years ago.

A changing nation
The proportion of immigrants has been rising steadily since 2012. The number had risen rapidly in the years leading up to the financial crash of 2008, when it dropped for a few years. The number of first generation immigrants in Iceland on January 1 2017 was 35,997, and the number of second generation immigrants 4,473 second generation. 

Twenty years ago only 5,357 first generation and 345 second generation immigrants lived in Iceland. An immigrant is a person born abroad with both parents foreign born and all grandparents foreign born, whereas a second generation immigrant is born in Iceland having immigrant parents.

People born in Poland were by far the most numerous group of immigrants. In 2017, 13,771 immigrants or 38.3% of the total immigrant population were born in Poland. Other large immigrant groups were born in Lithuania (1,880) and in the Philippines (1,610).

18.8% of the population has foreign roots
People with a foreign background, defined as having one parent of foreign origin, has also increased. Now 6.8% of the Icelandic population has one foreign born parent. Taken together first and second generation immigrants as well as people with a foreign background now make up 18.8% of the population, making Iceland a decidedly more cosmopolitan nation. 

In 2016, 703 persons were granted Icelandic citizenship, compared with 801 in 2015. 

Population with foreign background


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