New year started with a euphoric news for women of Iceland. The country implemented a new law Monday that will make it illegal for male employees to be paid more than women doing the same job.
According to Al Jazeera, the legislation in Iceland as of Jan. 1 any company or government agency with 25 or more staff members will “have to obtain government certification of their equal-pay policies,”. Companies failing to comply with this law will face fines.
A board member of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association, Dagny Osk Aradottir Pind, told Al Jazeera that the legislation is a mechanism to “ensure women and men are being paid equally.” She added that Iceland has had legislation in place saying men and women should be paid equally “for decades,” but a gender pay gap has persisted. 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.”
“The legislation is basically a mechanism that companies and organizations … 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,” she said.
Iceland becomes the first country to execute such legislation. The pay equity law was passed — perhaps not coincidentally — a year after female candidates won nearly half the seats in Iceland’s parliament, which is housed in the Althingishus in Reykjavík. It was first announced in March 2017 on International Women’s Day.
As of 2017, for the seventh year running, Iceland has topped the World Economic Forum’s survey for gender equality. Out of 144 countries, this small island has ranked number one in political empowerment amongst women, number one for closing the gender income gap (government ambitions look to finalise this in 2022) and boasts corporate quotas which ensure women currently hold 44% of representation on company boards. The UK came in 15th place in 2017, with a 16.9 per cent pay gap between men and women.
The WEF noted in its report that despite Iceland’s achievements toward equal pay, “its gender gap in the areas of economic participation and opportunity and educational attainment” have still widened over the years, following a global trend. The organization estimates that it will be a century before the overall gender gap worldwide is closed.
Iceland’s government has committed to eradicate the gender pay gap by 2022.