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Clarion Congress & Hotel, Cosmos 3D


Markus Meckl & Stéphanie Barillé

Topic: Understanding immigrant women underemployment in northern Iceland

Keywords: Immigration, gender, employment, labour market, Iceland


Iceland has gained attention within the past decade both for becoming sought-after destination country for migrants and for their constant engagement to extend gender equality within their societies. However, immigrants living conditions and gender have rarely been connected in the public discourse, and the living and working conditions of immigrant women have been largely ignored. This study examines the labour market situation of immigrant women in rural Iceland.

Marginalization remains a problem for many immigrant women within the rural labour market. Research shows that labour force participation rates are lower among immigrant women, and that underemployment is more common amongst immigrant women. A pilot study realized at the University of Akureyri shows that immigrant women are one of the most vulnerable groups of people in the labour market in Iceland.

Many women occupy positions that do not fit with their level of education; despite having higher education-levels than men, 30% of immigrant women who took part in a survey in 2016 among 20 immigrants in the North of Iceland are in employment that does not suit their background, compared to 8% of Icelandic women. This difference has a direct impact on the income and immigrant women earn significantly less than Icelandic women (or immigrant men), as they are in occupations that do not take their education into consideration.

It investigates in particular job mismatch among immigrant women and examines existing practices which might focus on lessening the gap between women’s skills and their current position in their respective host countries. Findings indicate that improving proficiency in the local language, encouraging hesitant employers to hire immigrant women and improving the confidence of women in their capabilities could be efficient measures to tackle the underemployment of immigrant women in Iceland.

Go back to the workgroup WG 5