The Gender Pay Gap is now Illegal in Iceland

Not for the first time, Iceland are paving the way in terms of gender equality, becoming the first country in the world to make it a legal requirement for companies to show they are not paying a man more money than a woman for the same job.

Having brought in legislation on the 1st of January, businesses and government bodies with more than 25 staff are required to get equal pay certificates from the government. If a company demonstrates that it’s paying men and women different wages for the same work, they will have to pay a fine.

First announced on International Women’s Day on the 8th of March last year, this is part of the country’s drive to eradicate the gender pay gap by 2022.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Dagny Osk Aradottir Pind, a board member of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association, said:

“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.

“We have had legislation saying that pay should be equal for men and women for decades now but we still have a pay gap. 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.”

This announcement is fully endorsed by the country’s current leader Katrín Jakobsdóttir, who, when she came to office, stated that the country’s focus during her premiership will be on improving equality for the sexes, a tougher approach to sexual offenses, improving LGBT rights and welcoming more refugees into the country.

It is worth noting that legislation to end the gender pay gap was also supported by the opposition party and the rest of the country’s parliament, of which almost 50% are women.

Leading the Line

For a long time now, Iceland has been deemed the best place in the world to be a woman. At the end of last year it topped the World Economic Forum’s gender equality index for the 9th time in a row – for comparison the UK ended up in 15th place behind both France and Germany.

And this isn’t just because of their efforts to close the gender pay gap for women. In Iceland men get at least 3 months paternity leave, of which 90% of fathers take the time off. This has a knock-on effect across the country, with men sharing the responsibility for child-rearing, and encouraging them to share more of the workload.

This sharing of responsibilities means that women have more time for education and career progression, leading to higher percentages of women holding managerial positions than in any other country. Their Prime Minister (the second female to take the position in Iceland), for instance, is 41 years old and has three young sons.

In the UK only 1% of those eligible are utilising shared parental leave.

Surely we have something to learn from here.

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