Volunteering in Iceland

Volunteers come to Iceland either via volunteer or au pair organisations.

smiling ethnic woman showing volunteer sign on red apron

Most volunteers work for food and accomodation, some receive small compensation, au pairs receive a stipend, some volunteers even pay participation fees.

In Iceland, volunteer work is only supposed to be done in the context of non-profit/charity work, and is not allowed for commercial purposes.

hotel servant with clean towels in bathroom

We did not receive many testimonies from volunteers: most of the reports were observations made by foreign wage employees at the same workplaces.

The short nature of their stays and their social isolation may have contributed to only a few volunteers sharing their experiences with us.

The reality of volunteers in Iceland

male employee cleaning floor in restaurant

Performing unpaid commercial labor

Lack of contracts

close up of human hand
light dark graffiti building

Inadequate food and housing

Pressure to work long hours, even when sick

tired man looking in mirror in bathroom
tired couple sitting on car luggage boot

Housing insecurity

Isolation, higher risk of abuse and harassment

back view of a person in orange jacket standing near the snow covered ground

Most volunteers leave if their conditions worsen and do not report abuse

volunteer printed on a red shirt

Volunteers are an especially vulnerable group of workers due to their dependence on the employer for accomodation, their lack of sufficient wages to be able to escape an abusive situation, and that their right to bein Iceland depends on their ongoing volunteering.

More about the Au Pairs situation in Iceland, see W.O.M.E.N. – Association of foreign women in Iceland

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