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Idea that Iceland Has No Class Divisions a Myth, Says Sociologist

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Idea that Iceland Has No Class Divisions a Myth, Says Sociologist

Borgartún.

Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

Although it’s often said that Iceland is a country without significant class divisions, a sociologist who has been studying this phenomenon for years says this is far from the truth, Vísir reports.

“What happened here from the mid-1990s up until the financial crisis [of 2008] is that economic inequality increased rapidly,” says Guðmundur Ævar Oddsson, who holds a doctorate in sociology and who for years has studied the phenomenon within an Icelandic context. “Particularly when it comes to income distribution, but also in terms of asset distribution.” Guðmundur says that although income distribution became more equal after the crash, the income gap is starting to widen once again, and so has asset distribution.

According to data from the City of Reykjavík, 2.9% of children up to the age of 17 receive some form of financial assistance from the municipal government. Guðmundur says that childhood poverty is, however, something that could easily be remedied if the decision were simply made to do so.

“All inequality is, in reality, a human invention, such that it’s possible for us to intervene. There’s no natural law that says that childhood poverty should be 5% rather than 0% or 10%,” he explained.

“Of course there are numerous studies—hundreds, if not thousands—that show that as the gap between groups or whatever you want to call the classes increases, it has a negative impact on crime rates, people’s heath, trust between groups, [and] political participation,” says Guðmundur.

Guðmundur’s message to the Efling trade union that he recently addressed and to the government at large simple: “It is to everyone’s benefit—even those who are rich and own the most—to try and keep the gap within reasonable limits.”

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