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Demographics of Iceland

Most Icelanders are descendants of Norwegian settlers and Celts from Ireland, and the population is remarkably homogeneous. According to Icelandic Government statistics, 99% of the nation's inhabitants live in urban areas (localities with populations greater then 200) and 60% live in Reykjavik and the surrounding area. Of the Nordic languages, the Icelandic language is closest to the Old Norse language and has remained relatively unchanged since the 12th century.

About 91% of the population belong to the state church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, or other Lutheran Churches. However, Iceland has complete religious liberty, and other Protestant and Roman Catholic congregations are present (about 3.5%).

Most Icelandic surnames are based on patronymy, or the adoption of the father's first given name. For example, Magnús and Anna, children of a man named Pétur, would hold the surname Pétursson and Pétursdóttir, respectively. Magnús' children, in turn, would inherit the surname Magnússon, while Anna's children would claim their father's first given name as their surname, although the mother's name may also be used. Women normally maintain their original surnames after marriage. This system of surnames is required by law, except for the descendants of those who had acquired family names before 1913. Most Icelanders, while reserved by nature, rarely call each other by their surnames, and phone directories and other listings are invariably based on first names. Because of its small size and relative homogeneity, Iceland holds all the characteristics of a very close-knit society.

Icelandic National Registry
All living Icelanders, as well as all foreign citizens with permanent residence in Iceland, have a personal identification number (kennitala) identifying them in the National Registry. This number is composed of 10 digits, whereof the first six are made up of the individual’s birth date in the format DDMMYY. The next two digits are chosen at random when the kennitala is allocated, the 9th digit is a check digit, and the last digit indicates the period of one hundred years in which the individual was born (for instance, ‘9’ for the period 1900-1999). An example would be 120102-3389. While similar, all-inclusive personal registries exist in other countries, the use of the national registry is unusually extensive in Iceland. For example, some video rentals register their customers using the registry identification numbers. It is worth noting that the completeness of the National Registry eliminates any need for censuses to be performed.

Cultural Achievements
The Sagas, almost all written between 1180-1300 A.D., remain Iceland's best known literary accomplishment, and they have no surviving counterpart anywhere in the Nordic world. Based on Norwegian and Icelandic histories and genealogies, the Sagas present views of Nordic life and times up to 1100 A.D. The Saga writers sought to record their heroes' great achievements and to glorify the virtues of courage, pride, and honor, focusing in the later Sagas on early Icelandic settlers.

Unlike its literature, Iceland's fine arts did not flourish until the 19th century because the population was small and scattered. Iceland's most famous painters are Ásgrimur Jónsson, Jón Stefánsson, and Jóhannes Kjarval, all of whom worked during the first half of the 20th century, and Erró (Gudmundur Gudmundsson). The best-known modern sculptor, Ásmundur Sveinsson (1893-1982), drew his inspiration from Icelandic folklore and the Sagas for many of his works.

The best known Icelandic writer in this century is the Nobel Prize winner Halldór Laxness[?]. The literacy rate is 100%, and literature and poetry are a passion with the population. Per capita publication of books and magazines is the highest in the world. In a population of around 280,000, 2000 data show three daily newspapers and 101 other newspapers and periodicals.

Kristinn Sigmundsson[?] and Kristján Jóhannsson[?] are Iceland's most famous opera singer, while pop singer Björk is probably its best known artist in this century.

Population: 288,201 (Dec 2002 official figure), wherof: the Reykjavik metropolitan area: 179,781.

Age structure:
0-14 years: 23% (male 33,119; female 31,222)
15-64 years: 65% (male 90,599; female 88,982)
65 years and over: 12% (male 14,555; female 17,888) (2000 est.)

Population growth rate: 0.57% (2000 est.)

Birth rate: 14.86 births/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Death rate: 6.87 deaths/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Net migration rate: -2.3 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2000 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.81 male(s)/female
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2000 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 3.58 deaths/1,000 live births (2000 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 79.39 years
male: 77.19 years
female: 81.77 years (2000 est.)

Total fertility rate: 2.03 children born/woman (2000 est.)

Nationality:
noun: Icelander(s)
adjective: Icelandic

Ethnic groups: homogeneous mixture of descendants of Norwegians and Celts

Religions: Lutheran 91%, other Protestant and Roman Catholic, 3.5% (1997)

Languages: Icelandic

Literacy:
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99.9% (1997 est.)
male: NA%
female: NA%

See also : Iceland



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