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Volunteering in Iceland? THINK AGAIN !

Well think again!   You may be doing more harm than good – and hopefully that is not your intention.

For decades young people from all over the world have come to Iceland to volunteer in projects that focus on the preservation of nature?  We have welcomed these young people. They have given up their time and effort to assist us in preserving our rough and unforgiving nature.

However – in the last few years “volunteering” has been given a new meaning in Iceland and not such a pleasant one. In times of unemployment in Europe and elsewhere and in search of adventure and perhaps wanting something to put on one´s CV – people have been coming to Iceland to volunteer in places of business – doing regular work. Not saving the nature – but serving coffee. For free!

This is against everything we stand for. Working for the economic gain of someone should benefit both employer and worker.  Working for free is what slaves used to do and they didn´t choose their fate. Working for free is deflating the value of work – hurting regular people and benefitting the rich.

Perhaps your situation is such that you can afford to work for free one summer – but there are people who need this job and need to be paid for it.


Ok – this is the moral side of the story. There is also a legal side. By law in Iceland, every job has a guaranteed minimum wage and all jobs have obligations and benefits. We are sure that those soliciting for volunteer workers don´t always tell you everything:

  • Have you been informed that you must pay tax of your free board and housing?
  • Have you been informed that you need a work permit – even though you are “volunteering”?
  • Have you been informed that you are not covered by any of the health and social insurance programmes that everyone else in Iceland enjoys?

They Unions in Iceland negotiate General Agreements with the Federation of Employers, thereby setting a minimum wage for all jobs. The unions understand the concept of volunteering for the greater good – and we support our Red Cross volunteers that travel to disaster areas to help  – but we draw the line at regular businesses. If your volunteer work is for someone´s economic gain – you shouldn´t be doing it and please don´t act as you are doing anyone a favour.

Please remember that your “employer” is breaking the law and certainly contracts – playing unfair in the market place and basically just being greedy.  You can always change your mind and demand a salary – because an agreement about volunteer work in the workplace will not hold up in an Icelandic court of law. This union would be glad to represent you.

We are just an email away –  we read English, Scandinavian languages (Danish, Sweedish and Norwegian), Polish and Serbian.

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