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Icelandic Online Dictionary and Readings

Carry On Icelandic: Culture [selections] (2004)

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Írar ■jˇ­fÚlagsbreytingar - Rapid Social Change

Írar ■jˇ­fÚlagsbreytingar

═slendingar voru me­al fßtŠkustu ■jˇ­a Evrˇpu ß seinni hluta 19. aldar. Landb˙na­ur var a­alatvinnuvegurinn frß landnßmi og fram ß 20. ÷ld. Hann er, eins og gefur a­ skilja, vi­kvŠmur fyrir sveiflum Ý nßtt˙runni og hart ßrfer­i af v÷ldum kulda e­a nßtt˙ruhamfara haf­i ■vÝ oft hungursney­ Ý f÷r me­ sÚr.

Allur ■orri fˇlks bjˇ Ý sveitum og bˇndabŠrinn var hornsteinn samfÚlagsins. Me­ i­nvŠ­ingu ur­u fyrst breytingar ß Ýslenskum samfÚlagshßttum, ■egar vÚlvŠ­ing fiskiskipaflotans hˇfst og fari­ var a­ flytja inn togara Ý byrjun aldarinnar. Ůessu fylgdu breytingar ß atvinnuhßttum og b˙setu. Fˇlk flutti ˙r sveitum Ý ■orp til a­ stunda margvÝsleg st÷rf tengd ˙tvegi, en ß­ur haf­i vinna vi­ fisk veri­ ßrstÝ­abundin.

Enn frekari breytingar ur­u Ý atvinnu- og bygg­a■rˇun me­ seinni heimsstyrj÷ldinni. Ůa­ mß me­ sanni segja a­ h˙n hafi marka­ upphaf n˙tÝmavŠ­ingar ß ═slandi vegna ■eirra miklu efnahagsbreytinga sem hersetan haf­i Ý f÷r me­ sÚr.

Landi­ var hernumi­ af Bretum 1940 og AmerÝkanar tˇku svo vi­ af ■eim 1941. Hersetan haf­i mikla efnahagslega ■ř­ingu fyrir ■jˇ­ina. Vegir voru lag­ir, flugvellir bygg­ir o.s.frv., og margvÝslega ■jˇnustu ■urfti a­ inna af hendi vi­ herli­i­. Ůa­ var­, me­ ÷­rum or­um, mikil eftirspurn eftir vinnuafli og fj÷ldi ═slendinga fÚkk n˙ vinnu og hana vel launa­a. Auk ■essa hŠkka­i fiskver­ vegna aukinnar eftirspurnar ß erlendum marka­i. Allt stu­la­i ■etta a­ hagsŠld ■jˇ­arinnar ■ˇtt kaldhŠ­nislegt sÚ.

Black and white illustration

B˙skapur var ß­ur fyrr meginuppista­a Ýslensks efnahags (Farming and housekeeping was until the 20th century the main-stay of Iceland's economy).

Ůessar breyttu a­stŠ­ur h÷f­u ßhrif ß alla fÚlagsger­ hins Ýslenska samfÚlags og fˇlksflutningar utan af landi til ReykjavÝkur ur­u meiri en nokkru sinni. DreifbřlissamfÚlagi­ breyttist ß sk÷mmum tÝma Ý borgarsamfÚlag og flestir ═slendingar b˙a n˙ Ý ■Úttbřli.

N˙ lifa a­eins um 5% ■jˇ­arinnar ß landb˙na­i en 83% ßri­ 1860. Helsta grein hans er kvikfjßrrŠkt. Nřjar b˙greinar hafa komi­ fram ß undanf÷rnum ßrum, eins og lo­dřrarŠkt, fiskeldi og rŠktun nytjaskˇga.

Handverk og smßi­na­ur var stunda­ur hÚr fram ß tuttugustu ÷ld en me­ vÚlvŠ­ingu jˇkst atvinnu■ßtttaka Ý i­na­i verulega. Flestir starfa Ý matvŠlai­na­i, byggingari­na­i og stˇri­ju, auk ■ess sem hugb˙na­arfyrirtŠkjum vex mj÷g fiskur um hrygg. Reynt hefur veri­ a­ stu­la a­ fj÷lbreyttari atvinnuhßttum, me­al annars me­ aukinni stˇri­ju sem hart er deilt um.

Enn er ■ˇ sjˇrinn dřrmŠtasta au­lind ═slendinga og fiskafur­ir eru mikilvŠgasta ˙tflutningsvara ■jˇ­arinnar. ═slenska hagkerfi­ er ■vÝ mj÷g hß­ sjßvar˙tvegi, enda skapa sjßvarafur­ir um 70% allra ˙tflutningstekna ■jˇ­arinnar.

Ůa­ er ■vÝ ˇhŠtt a­ segja a­ fiskimi­in umhverfis landi­ sÚu s˙ undirsta­a gˇ­ra lÝfskjara ■jˇ­arinnar sem skipa­ hefur ═slendingum Ý ra­ir tekjuhŠstu ■jˇ­a heims. Hvort menn eru svo sammßla um nřtingu au­lindarinnar og a­ganginn a­ henni er anna­ mßl.

Rapid Social Change

Iceland was amongst the poorest nations in Europe during the latter part of the nineteenth-century. Agriculture was main type of employment from the period of settlement through to the twentieth-century. As is understandable, agriculture is sensitive to environmental change and difficult years (through cold or natural disasters) have often brought famine.

The vast majority of people used to live in the country and the farm formed the cornerstone of society. The first changes in Icelandic social patterns came with industrialization: the mechanization of fishing ships began and, at the beginning of the twentieth-century, trawling was introduced. There followed changes in work and residential patterns. Whereas fishing had previously been seasonal work, people now moved out of the countryside and into villages where they could take part in the many occupations connected with the fishing industry.

But even more changes in work practices and demographics were occasioned by World War II. It is quite certain that, due to the economic changes caused by military occupation, the War marked the beginning of modernization in Iceland.

Color photograph

Sjˇrinn er dřrmŠtasta au­lind ═slendinga og fiskafur­ir eru mikilvŠgasta ˙tflutningsvara ■jˇ­arinnar (The sea remains the most valuable of Iceland's natural resources and fish products are its most important exports).

Iceland was occupied by the British in 1940, who were replaced by the American military in 1941. The occupation was of enormous economic significance for the nation: roads were laid, airports built and so on, and a variety of services were called for by the army itself. There was, in other words, a strong demand for labour and many Icelanders were able to get new and well paid jobs. In addition, due to an increase in demand in European markets, the fish price rose. Ironically, these wartime factors all worked to the prosperity of the nation.

These changing social conditions have had an influence on all aspects of Icelandic society, and migration from the countryside to ReykjavÝk is higher than ever. Rural society has, in a short time, turned into village-based communities and most Icelanders now live in urban areas.

Indeed, only 5% of Icelanders now live off the land whereas the number was 83% in 1860. The largest agricultural sector is livestock, although new areas of farming have developed in recent years, such as fur farming, fish farming and forest cultivation.

Handicrafts and cottage industries continued into the twentieth-century, but with mechanization there followed a real increase in the level of work done by industry. Most people today work in food, construction and large scale industries, as well as for the software companies which are gaining strength. Attempts have been made to create more varied forms of employment, including through an increase in large scale industry - a controversial measure.

Yet the sea remains the most valuable of Iceland's natural resources and fish products are its most important exports. As such, the Icelandic economy is very dependent on the fishing industry, with fish products making up some 70% of the nation's export earnings.

It is, therefore, safe to say that the fishing grounds around the country form the basis of the nation's good standard of living, placing Iceland amongst the highest income nations of the world. Whether people are as unanimous in their views about the exploitation of this resource, and access to it, is another matter.

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