The Suðurnes region currently has the highest unemployment rate in the country at 16.9%, according to reports.
The labor market situation began to deteriorate last year, mainly due to the bankruptcy of WOW air, but this year’s outbreak of the coronavirus outbreak has resulted in thousands of people losing their jobs in the district. They are mostly employees of the tourism, transport and various services industries.
Last week, Reykjanesbær hosted a residents’ meeting on employment in the region.
Representatives of labor offices from the municipalities of Vogar, Suðurnesjabær, Grindavík and Reykjanesbær, together with the Reykjanes Employers’ Association, signed a letter of intent on cooperation in the creation of jobs in Suðurnes over the next 6-12 months.
They spoke at the meeting Berglind Kristinsdóttir – president of the Association of Local Authorities Suðurnes, Guðjón Skúlason – chairman of the Employers’ Union in Reykjanes, Ragnar Þór Ingólfsson – chairman of trade unions VR i Hildur Jakobína Gísladóttir – director of the Labor Office in Suðurnes.
Along with signing the declaration, labor offices and municipalities declared that they would work on creating jobs under subsidies related to temporary employment for a period of 6 to 12 months. This action has been taken with people looking for work in the area in mind.
The Job Center offers various financing options for institutions and companies, both small and large, which are interested in creating temporary jobs for unemployed people. Financial support from the Labor Office can be used for recruitment, innovation and training for employees.
“Where are we now? Many people compare this situation to the phenomena of weather, storm, storm, hurricane and even natural disasters. It is known that any bad weather will end one day “ – these were the words of Guðjón Skúlason, president of the Reykjanes Employers’ Union.
“We, the people of Reykjanes, know this well and are therefore here to ask what we can do and work together to solve the problems we face” – added. “The current situation has brought many companies to the brink of bankruptcy and forced them to reduce employment. However, I believe that since the county is located at the airport, it will continue to be the main source of livelihood for companies and provide employment opportunities in the area. We must ensure the best use of this resource, which is the airport for us “ Guðjón said.
Despite the crisis, a few interesting projects appeared on the market, which are at the stage of planning, development and even implementation. Currently, Reykjanes is working on the development of the following projects that will create new jobs:
1. Development of the port of Njarðvíkurhöfn, where a new shipyard and service facilities are to be built, which can provide up to 350 jobs, including up to 80 jobs all year round.
2.Acaculture in Reykjanes as part of the Samherji company which is well integrated with aviation and shipping and will create jobs in the general market.
3. Verne Global is considering expanding its data center to include contractors, electricity purchases and various services that will create jobs.
4.Helguvík is a project with great potential for development, especially related to port activities.
Moreover, the country’s authorities also have plans to develop many other local projects that will be very important for the area.
Many of these projects are related to the expansion and development of transport infrastructure. Among other things, it is about the expansion of the international airport, the extension of the Reykjanesbraut road that leads from the capital district to the airport. The development of Coast Guard activities at the airport will provide many jobs for contractors of the necessary services.
In addition, the authorities intend to allocate significant funds to the development of the area, health care, police, education, etc. This support is to compensate for the differences that arise between regions.
Guðjón added at the end that “All suggestions are good and worth considering with an open mind. Our location in the country means that we have a lot of possibilities and it is in our hands to launch them, of course, with the help and commitment of the authorities. We do not stick to the question ‘what can you do for me’, but we ask ‘what can I do’ or ‘what can we do together’ and this may lead to new opportunities soon, in the short term to be able to react to the situation as well as long term which will be good for Reykjanes and the whole country. “
A similar question “What can we do together” Berglind Kristinsdóttir, president of the Suðurnes Association of Local Authorities, made her speech. It approximated the value of the projects currently under way in the Suðurnes area. Many of them are opportunities to create new jobs. Some of these projects are already under development, others are planned for the coming years. Among them are, among others expansion of schools, kindergartens, sports halls, improvement of infrastructure in cities. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Icelandic Coast Guard and NATO are involved in the largest projects, mainly related to the expansion and development of the airport.
Additionally, Berglind recalled that anyone interested in developing a new business can benefit from the help and support it offers Heklan – Reykjanes Peninsula Regional Development Agency. It stands for the interests of the inhabitants and the community, supports institutions and enterprises in the region, and represents the development of the economy, society, education, research, knowledge and culture. He provides experience and professional advice in the field of business and enterprise development. It also helps in obtaining grants for new projects.
Director of the Labor Office of Suðurnes, Hildur Jakobína Gísladóttir it referred to the first crisis in the region, which was the bankruptcy of WOW air last year. “This had serious and negative consequences for the economy in Suðurnes as unemployment increased significantly as a result. However, we joined forces and found a way to deal with the consequences of what happened. Life went on until the virus appeared and spread all over the world. Who would have thought that there would be a pandemic in 2020. The tourism industry has largely collapsed and we are now facing the greatest unemployment in history. “
With the tourism industry playing the most important role in the labor market in the Suðurnes area, it is obvious that it is now important to find alternatives and work together to find solutions.
The question “What can I do?” In order to improve the situation in the Suðurnes district, he appeared several times during the meeting. All the speakers encourage the inhabitants, together with institutions from the city, to take part in the work on changing the current situation.
“All ideas are welcome” Hildur added.
When asked what can the Job Center do? Hildur replied that the institution provided liquidity in payments to the unemployed. He is in contact with the municipalities and works with employers from the surrounding area to promote new job-creating projects.
The government provided the Labor Office with additional funds for education and support for the unemployed. Hildur admitted that work on implementing new projects is going very well.
“Much emphasis will be placed on counseling and support as well as training and development courses in collaboration with schools and educators in the area. Therefore, legislative changes have been made to enable those who receive unemployment benefits to study. After the new year, another large initiative is launched, under which jobseekers from 6 months or more will be able to take part in a full professional or technical course for one semester “ Hildur commented.
Due to the growing number of new projects, new jobs will appear in the Labor Office, e.g. for advisers who will be needed in the Reykjanesbær office.
Due to the COVID-19 crisis, labor offices across the country faced a wall of applications from people who lost their jobs or registered for benefits as part of a percentage reduction in working hours. The offices were not ready for such a large number of incoming applications.
Hildur added that the Labor Office in Suðurnes is investing in keeping in touch with the unemployed. “Many people contact us via phone and e-mail. We try to support jobseekers and promote counseling services through the ‘Teams’ program that many know very well. “
“Now, like never before, in Suðurnes we have a social responsibility, and that applies to everyone who lives and works here. We must work together to improve the situation and increase employment opportunities in the region “ commented.
As the region is located right next to an airport that will create jobs after the epidemic has calmed down, everyone should now take advantage of the options and focus on education, e.g. in the field of tourism, innovation or technical faculties.
Representatives of the employment offices from the municipalities of Vogar, Suðurnesjabær, Grindavík and Reykjanesbær together with the Employers’ Association in Reykjanes signed a letter of intent on cooperation in the creation of jobs in Suðurnes over the next 6 – 12 months.
During the meeting held in Stapi, residents could submit questions and ideas via the Internet platform. Some of the questions and issues were raised and discussed during the panel discussion.
Writer and associate professor at the University of Iceland, Árelía Eydís, said during the meeting that every change brings with it an opportunity.
Berglind Kristinsdóttir, president of the Suðurnes Association of Local Authorities, Guðjón Skúlason, president of the Reykjanes Employers’ Union, Ragnar Þór Ingólfsson, president of VR trade unions and Hildur Jakobína Gísladóttir, director of Suðurnes Labor Office, spoke during the meeting.
The entire meeting was broadcast and can now be viewed on the Reyjkjanesbær City FB website.
The speakers’ presentations were characterized by willingness to cooperate and solidarity with the inhabitants of the district. However, the most important goal of the meeting was to familiarize the inhabitants of the area with the activities undertaken by the district authorities and representatives of local institutions in relation to the currently growing unemployment. It was also important to show how important, especially now, is the cooperation of local governments and state institutions.