It Is Now Illegal To Pay Women Less Than Men In Iceland

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By Mayukh Saha

Whether we like to admit it or not, the gender pay gap is still very much in existence in today’s world. It is the gap between what men are paid and what women are paid. Not only is it sexist, but the gender pay gap also reduces economic output and puts women in a disadvantageous position of being dependent on family or on welfare payments when they reach old age. It is the result of several factors ranging from direct pay discrimination to occupational segregation to bias against working mothers.

Several countries are still struggling with this problem. Even in a country like the United Kingdom, a 16.9% pay gap existed between men and women in 2017. Several organizations like the Global Gender Gap Report exist, which aim to report on the gender equality level of each country based on factors like the availability of economic opportunities, accessibility of political power, health, and life expectancy.

In a groundbreaking new legislation introduced in Iceland paying men more than women has been made illegal. This enactment, which aims to ensure that both men and women are paid equally, first came into force over a year ago. According to the act, it is compulsory for businesses which have a workforce of more than 25 employees to be certified by the government on pay equality. They can be made to pay fines if they do not qualify for obtaining the certificate.

The official announcement about the enactment was made on the 8th of March, 2017, that is, on International Women’s Day, making it a symbolic achievement as well. It is one part of a nationwide drive aimed at eliminating the gender pay gap altogether in the next four years.

According to Dagny Osk Aradottir Pind, who is a member of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association, the legislation is a mechanism through which all the jobs that are offered by a company or an organization are evaluated. Once they pass this evaluation and it is confirmed that the genders are being given equal pay, the company will be certified accordingly. The aim is to take the necessary steps to ensure that there is no discrimination in the payment of wages to men and women. Prior to this, legislation stating that men and women should be paid equally did exist but the wage gap still thrived.

With a population of 323,000 people, Iceland has the honor of being the most gender equal country in the world, according to the World Economic Forum, for the past nine years. With almost half of Iceland’s parliament being made up of women it comes as no surprise that this new enactment received full support from both the ruling center-right coalition and the opposition.

Ms. Pind believes that people have finally started realizing that it is a problem that is deep rooted in all the systems of society and that we need to come up with new solutions to deal with it. While the pay gap has been a topic of discussion among women for many years, it is only now that a majority of people are becoming aware of the problem. Thanks to this awareness, there was a realization that the existing legislation was not adequate to tackle it and the need for a more drastic measure became apparent.

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Companies have four years starting from the 1st of January, 2018 to be certified according to the new law. With factors like gender stereotypes being deep rooted in society, legislation alone may not be all it takes to fix this problem but it is a necessary step towards equality and other countries should take note.

IMAGE CREDIT: Iuliia Nemchinova

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