Unemployment falls as long-term unemployment soars
“Tackling unemployment is going very slowly and, of course, we know the wheels aren’t going to start spinning properly here again until we come out of this COVID crisis,” Drífa says.
The number of people who have been looking for work for a year or longer jumped by 1,500 to around 6,000 during March—which marked exactly one year since the first wave of COVID-19 infections in Iceland and widespread layoffs.
A further 400 people have joined their ranks so far this month and Directorate of Labour data show the ratio of Icelandic citizens to foreign citizens in the undesirable position of being unemployed for over a year is around 60/40. “This is a very grave concern. Here, we are talking about people who were in front-line roles, and especially foreigners, who are perhaps in a weaker position in Icelandic society and the Icelandic workplace. There really needs to be a bigger campaign [to help],” Drífa says.
Around 1,800 new jobs have been registered with the Directorate of Labour in the past three weeks, since the government announced a package of financial support for employers wishing to offer work to more people.
Under the initiative, companies can receive direct financial support for employing an individual who has been unemployed for a year or longer—and public agencies and municipalities for people who have been looking for work for two or more years. Drífa says it is already known the public sector will play a significant role in relieving the unemployment crisis and is calling for the two-year limit to be lowered in line with that for private companies.