Heading for the Exits

Back to the subject of Iceland, which holds the doubtful distinction of occupying the current financial crisis’ leading-edge of economic suffering. As the FT recently reported, that country’s monetary authorities have now had to raise interest rates for the Icelandic krona to a record 18% as one condition for receiving what is still a “proposed” $2 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. The future will seemingly bring a 10% contraction of the economy there, with simultaneous 8% unemployment and 20%-plus inflation.

I’m afraid I do not possess the skills in Icelandic to start investigating that country’s on-line press to look deeper into this mess that way. But there’s at least some interesting coverage from the Czech Republic’s leading general-interest quality daily, Mladá fronta dnes, in the form of an article Alarmed by the crisis, a third of Icelanders consider moving out of the country.

That’s right, according to a poll released by the Icelandic paper Morgunbladid, 32% of Icelanders between the ages of 18 and 75 say that they are thinking of emigrating. That would translate to a loss of as much as 70,000 of Iceland’s current population of around 217,000, for the most part among the young. (The CIA World Factbook, however, lists Iceland’s population at 304,367, as estimated last July.) Plus, as you might expect, the Smyril Line which is Iceland’s only sea-link to the outside world (namely to Scotland, Norway, and Denmark) is fully booked through the end of the year – but, as Iceland radio reports, that is mainly by foreigners leaving Iceland to return to their home countries.

Former Icelandic premier Halldor Asgrimsson, in a recent interview with the Swedish press agency Tidningarnas Telegrambyrå, identified such mass migration as one of the leading threats his country currently faces. That is an understandable attitude, but on the other hand, it’s this sort of “labor mobility” that the EU has been counting on for a while to make the European economy work better, particularly since the introduction of the euro. When changing economic circumstances mean that the jobs are in one country or region but the people are in another, then the latter are supposed to move to the former – just like the way Michiganers famously moved to Texas, say, once the American auto industry started faltering in the late 1970s/early 1980s. Or the way the Okies fled to California from the Depression and “Dust Bowl” conditions in the 1930s, as chronicled in The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.

Now that we finally see the prospect of this labor mobility coming true, wouldn’t you know that it would occur in a European nation, but one that is not an EU member – although that, too, might soon change.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Comments are closed.