Iceland’s Plans to Close the Gender Wage Gap by 2022

Iceland’s prime minister Bjarni Benediktsson has announced legislation to make equal pay mandatory in the country – regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or nationality. He made the announcement in New York on 8 March, International Women’s Day.

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The law would require all companies with more than 25 employees to prove that equal pay policies are being exercised. Companies would also have to undergo certification every three years to ensure their pay policies reflect the law. The legislation is scheduled to be considered by parliament in Iceland in March, and could be implemented by 2022. It is said to have cross-party support.

Although ranked by the World Economic Forum as the global leader in gender equality, Icelandic women still earn between 14-18 per cent less than their male colleagues.

“We may rank number one in the world at the moment [for gender equality] but the job is still not done,” said Benediktsson. “We don’t feel like we’ve reached an end goal by any means but we are proud of what we have already achieved. There are so many ways in which we can continue to move forwards.”

If the law is passed, Iceland would be the first country to make equal pay mandatory. Iceland already has an equal pay standard in place but not all companies observe it. According to Benediktsson, the proposed law would ensure that “the same pay is given to the same work”.

In October, thousands of Icelandic women staged a walk-out, leaving their workplace at 2:38 pm – 14 per cent early – to protest the 14 per cent gender pay gap. At a panel discussion in Brussels last Thursday, the country’s social affairs and equality minister Thorsteinn Viglundsson called pay equality “a matter of necessity”.

“We want to show the world that eradicating the gender pay gap is an achievable goal and we hope other nations will follow suit in adopting the equal pay standard in years to come,” said Viglundsson.


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