Country Report Iceland July 1998 Main report

Political scene: Rural depopulation triggers gov't. response

The prime minister, David Oddsson, has submitted to parliament policy proposals that outline measures to reverse the movement of people from the countryside to the greater Reykjavik area. Despite a 3.8% rise in the number of people living in Iceland between 1992 and 1997, the number of people living outside greater Reykjavik actually declined by 3.1% while the population in the capital grew by 7.6%. The main objective of the new proposals is to ensure that the population outside the capital rises by no less than the projected 10% in the country between 1998 and 2010. To achieve this objective, the government has decided that during the target period public employment in rural areas should grow by no less than in the capital, and to strengthen the role of university education outside the capital. At the same time the Institute of Rural Development will be used to invest Ikr300m per year in new business ventures while the government will strive to direct future investment in heavy industry towards rural areas. The movement of people away from the countryside to the south- western part of the country has been of great concern to a succession of governments since the second world war. The high frequency of volcanic activity and earthquakes in Iceland dictates that human habitation should not be clustered in any one part of the country.

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