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2019 OECD Economic Surveys: Iceland 2019

image of OECD Economic Surveys: Iceland 2019

Iceland has rapidly caught up with the richest OECD economies. Favourable external conditions and good policies helped create inclusive growth, low unemployment, low inflation, and sustainable public finances. The economy is very egalitarian, and living standards are among the highest in the OECD. Yet growth is now turning sharply due to a rapid decline in tourist arrivals and weak marine exports, with growth projected to slow to around zero in 2019. Wages are rising faster than productivity and the competitiveness gains, achieved after the 2008 crisis, are exhausted by now. Regulation is stringent. The government should set up a comprehensive action plan for regulatory reform, prioritising reforms that foster competition, level the playing field between domestic and foreign firms and attract international investment. Linking wages more closely to productivity developments could also help maintain competitiveness. A comprehensive skills strategy that builds strong foundation skills and provides the right skill mix would help Iceland to prepare for rapid technological change. The quality of public spending has declined since the 2008 crisis. Providing a better nexus between spending and performance targets in various policy areas could help increase public sector effectiveness.

SPECIAL FEATURES: SKILLS; PUBLIC FINANCE

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Fostering strong and relevant skills

Strong and relevant skills are vital for helping Iceland to adjust to rapidly changing technology and competition in the world economy and safeguard high prosperity and well-being. Many students lack solid core skills and competences, especially those with an immigration background, weakening the skills-base. Vocational and tertiary education do not always provide skills needed by the labour market. A comprehensive approach is required to strengthen skills, based on systematic assessment and forecasting exercises. This should include measures to improve teaching quality, including through stronger professional development, and ensure its equitable distribution, strengthen the work-based component of vocational training, and ensure that tertiary education provides the right skills. Beyond education, effective re-skilling and up-skilling programmes, including for immigrant workers, and strong work incentives are essential for further skill development and help make the best use of existing skills.

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