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The Price of island Life

Well, I'm back in the learning saddle again, this time to get my English teaching credentials. It's a pretty stiff year-long process which includes on-site assistant teaching at an elementary school. My first class, "Theories in Education" was yesterday, and it seems like it'll be very informative. I'm definitely going to pay deep attention during the courses on organization and curriculum developent because I have a tendency to create as I go, which can be exciting but not always very logical. My goal is to teach at the college/university level, though gaining momentum at the elementary level is definitely not a bad idea.

Life here in Reykjavik is pretty sweet these days. Of course gasoline prices are up to almost $7 a gallon, so we're walking a lot more, but the weather's good, etc.

There was a wierd spate of arson this weekend, but they were all minor fires probably set by stupid, bored and not too sober teens.

The country's politicians are gearing up for another round of elections, but since I can't seem to understand the Icelandic governmental system I have no idea who's running for what, or even when.

And finally for this post, there is actually a shortage of labor force here on the island: it seems there are not enough people willing to take on low wage jobs in preschool and after school care, restaurant and fast food, supermarket checkout and mail and newspaper delivery. Hmm...could it be because an hour's wages, buys you a sandwich and drink (but only at a grocery store, not at a restaurant) or a gallon of gas or half a pair of decent nylons? (i.e. an hour's minimum wage doesn't get you very far.)

Icelanders are very proud of their reputation for being well educated, with 100% literacy. But maybe the nation is educating itself out of a labor force...that is if a family's (modern) basic needs cannot be met with the minimum wage rate in this social democracy where it is now.

Just for fun, here's an example of modern life for a person who makes 1000 kronur per hour, decent wages for the above-mentioned jobs:

(Skip this if you don't like math or depressing social news)

Full-time wages per month, pre-tax: 160,000 kr.
Taxable income of that total: 90,000 kr.
Total of above amount after 40% tax: 54,000 kr.

Net monthly income (70,000 + 54,000): 124,000 kr.
(Union fees are deducted from your wages, plus other bizzare little amounts I'll never understand.)

Monthly costs:
Rent: av. 60,000 kr. for a two bdrm
Food & sundries: 25,000 kr.
Heat, water and electricity: 5,000 kr.
Phone, basic service: 3,000 kr.
Hot school lunch: 5,000 kr. per kid
Gas (just a guess): 10,000 kr.
Car lease: 13,000 kr.

Total: 121,000 kr.

That leaves 3,000 kr. for emergencies, entertainment and clothes. Hmmmm...

This is close to a real case scenario...I know someone, a single three-child parent, who gets a 140,000 paycheck once a month. She is well educated and is working as an accountant at a government-run museum. She has finally taken over the lease on a car because she had to move into a government-assisted apt a long way from where she works to be able to afford rent. Her son, 12, has a rare form of behavioural disability and needs, if not constant, then a lot, of care. She drives to work and back only. Swim classes for her 10 year-old daughter cost 8,000 a month and the government let her know last year that the special music classes they recommended for her son's development were not subsidized, and that she owed them months of backfees. She barely makes ends meet each month but just kind of grins and bears it. In all fairness, she receives some kind of bare bones alimony from her ex monthly and about 60,000 kr. per child every three months from the state. Thank god, eh? Of course I've heard that Hawaii is pretty expensive too...

(photo from Jónas Hallgrímsson: Selected Poetry and Prose)


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Professor Batty said...

...of course Hawaii has terrible schools, little or no investment in infrastructure, and high prices! No heating bills, though. The ocean is a little bit warmer...if you want to get rid of the 'comment-spammers', you can enable 'comment verification' on your 'settings-comments' via the Blogger dashboard...

Maja said...

I worked minimum wage jobs when I was in Iceland, and was constantly racking up debt on my credit card, and I didn't even pay many bills! I lived with my grandmother and didn't have to pay rent, so it's even more ridiculous.

It's one of the main reasons I could never live in Iceland permanently.

S Pearce-Higgins said...

I'm a graduate student from Britain and am thinking of spending summer 2007 working in Iceland. I was considering teaching English as a possible occupation. Do you have any advice you could give me about how viable this plan is or any suggestions?