Iceland legalizes equal gender pay

On New Year’s Day, the island nation became the first in the world to legislate that paying a woman less than a man is illegal

Iceland legalizes equal gender pay

Leer en Español: Islandia: Salarios iguales para hombres y mujeres

The new law promulgates that it is illegal for employers to pay male workers more, and it requires companies of 25 staff or more to prove they are paying men and women equally when performing the same tasks. The companies will have to get a certification to prove they are following the law. Companies will face fines if they can’t prove that men and women are receiving the same salary for the same job.

The bill was tabled and passed last spring, but only took effect on New Year’s Day. The new legislation was supported by Iceland’s Centre-right government, as well as the opposition, in a parliament where nearly 50 per cent of all members are women.

Dagny Osk Aradottir Pind, who works for the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association, says the legislation is a way of tackling an old problem with a new method. “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 realize that the legislation we have had in place is not working, and we need to do something more,” she said to Aljazeera.

The North Atlantic island nation, which has a population of about 330,000 people, wants to eradicate the gender pay gap by 2022. For nearly a decade, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has ranked Iceland as the most gender-equal country in the world, followed by Norway, Finland, Rwanda and Sweden. Yemen, on the other hand, is currently the lowest-ranked of the 144 countries measured in the report.

According to Saadia Zahidi, head of the WEF’s gender equality campaign, the factor that most contributes to Iceland thinning gender wage gap is women’s economic participation.

Despite its global standing, pay inequality remains a persistent problem for Iceland: women make up about half of the membership of the country’s parliament and half of Icelandic companies’ boards, yet they still earned between 14 and 20 percent less than their male peers in 2015.

The change in Icelandic law comes at a heated time for global women rights, with anti-sexual assault campaigns such as #MeToo and #TimesUp trending.

Gender equality has become a prominent focus of politicians around the world. However, the reality shows that almost all of them failed in the task. With the exception of Hungary, European countries tended to score above the global average. US Senator Bernie Sanders, in a Facebook post, said that the legislation approved in Iceland is an example to the US which ranks 49th in WEF’s gender equality table. In Latin-American, women suffer because the pay gap is huge and there are not steps forward to close it.

LatinAmerican Post | Carlos Gómez

Copy edited by Marcela Peñaloza

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