Overview of policies, strategies and programmes in relation to the occupational health and safety of older workers - Iceland

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European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA)

Initiatives from government/government-affiliated organisations

Occupational Health and Safety

Iceland had an occupational safety and health strategy from 2005 – 2007; there has not been any official follow-up strategy. The strategy included nine objectives (five of them were dedicated to the role of the AOSH), applying to all sectors, all working environments and all employees without any prioritisations.

The programme of the AOSH (2009-2013) listed seven priorities with numerous sub-goals. These include research focusing on groups struggling to have access to the labour market or to have access to healthy and safe working environments, due to illness, age or other factors. However, no specific research on age and occupational health and safety has been carried out. AOSH has published various guidelines and reports and provides training, but none of these initiatives or programmes address older workers or anti-discrimination.


The age structure of the population will change in the coming years; the number of Icelanders aged 65 years and older will increase proportionally more than the working age population and therefore there will not be enough workers to sustain the society. To address this concern, the Icelandic Government launched the 50+ project in 2005 to examine the status of older workers and trends in Iceland. The project ended in 2010.

During the term of the last Government, a Committee, with representatives from the Ministries, the Directorate of Labour and the social partners, was established in order to prepare a national strategy for employment. The work addressed certain groups specifically, including older workers, but appears to have been scrapped or put on hold by the current Government.

A number of active labour market measures have been implemented after the crisis, focusing in particular on young people and the long-term unemployed - regardless of age. No concrete measures have been put in place specifically to address the situation of older workers in the labour market, nor any specific measures dealing with the health and safety of this group.


Policies relating to older people focus mainly on the care of the elderly, with little attention given to labour market participation. This can be explained in part by the high labour participation of older people. A handful of studies have been carried out on labour related issues and ageing, but these focus mainly on employment participation – not occupational health and safety.

Initiatives from social partners / non-governmental organisations

No general or specific framework policies or programmes have been adopted by social partners or non-governmental organisations in Iceland relating to the occupational health and safety of older people. The associations of the elderly mainly focus their work on social security and pensions and nursing homes (living conditions after retirement).

A handful of studies have been carried out on labour related issues and ageing, but these focus mainly on employment participation – not occupational health and safety. One study, carried out by the Chamber of Commerce in 2004, demonstrated that older workers generally have fewer sick days than their younger colleagues and that they are happier at work[1].


  1. Icelandic Chamber of Commerce, 50 ára og eldri traustir starfskraftar, June 2004.