Go, Iceland! On January 1, the country implemented a new law that makes it illegal for companies to pay male employees more than women for doing the same job. As a result, Iceland is now the first country in the world to ensure equal pay between men and women.
Al Jazeera reports that the new legislation mandates that any company or government agency with 25 or more staff members will“have to obtain government certification of their equal-pay policies.” Companies that fail to comply will be fined.
“The legislation is basically a mechanism that companies and organisations … evaluate every job that’s being done, and then they get a certification after they confirm the process if they are paying men and women equally,” said Dagny Osk Aradottir Pind, a board member with the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association.
“It’s a mechanism to ensure women and men are being paid equally,” she added. “We have had legislation saying that pay should be equal for men and women for decades now but we still have a pay gap.”
For the past nine years, Iceland has been ranked by the World Economic Forum (WEF) as the world’s most gender-equal country. The WEF says it acts as “a leader on female political empowerment and a strong performer on wage equality.” An example of this is Iceland’s Parliament, which is comprised of nearly 50 percent female members. Since the reports began in 2006, the country has closed approximately 10 percent of its total gender gap. This makes it one of the fastest-improving countries in the world.
According to the Huffington Post, Iceland first announced the measure in March 2017, on International Women’s Day. Both Iceland’s center-right government and its opposition supported the legislation. Said Pind, “I think that now people are starting to realise that this is a systematic problem that we have to tackle with new methods.”
”Women have been talking about this for decades and I really feel that we have managed to raise awareness, and we have managed to get to the point that people realise that the legislation we have had in place is not working, and we need to do something more,” she added.
By 2020, the Icelandic government aims to entirely eradicate the wage gap.
Equal Work, Equal Pay
It’s 2018, and only now have women been ensured equal pay for doing the same work as men — in Iceland. Elsewhere, females still struggle to be recognized as competent professionals in the workplace and to take home the same paycheck as men. Clearly, this is a problem.
In 2014, which is the most recent year for which data is available, full-time, year-round working women’s annual wages in the United States were $39,621 compared with $50,383 for men. That’s a difference of $10,762! As American Progress points out, that amount of money could cover more than 14 months of median U.S. rent in 2014. No wonder the US ranks No. 49 by the WEF.
Furthermore, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data from 2015 reveals that men make more than women in all but five occupations. They are wholesale and retail buyers (except farm products); police and sheriff’s patrol officers; bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks; general office clerks; and data entry keyers. In the so-called “pink-collar” jobs, which women are disproportionately represented (such as maids, middle school teachers, and registered nurses), women still make less than men.
Obviously, this is occurring worldwide, not just in the United States. However, these statistics shed light on why equal pay between genders is necessary and worth discussing. Fortunately, Iceland has taken the first steps to ensure equality in the workplace, and we applaud that development.
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