Even among the Nordic nations that succeed in restoring our faith in humanity year after year, Iceland has been particularly exuberant with its progressive policies on gender issues, by topping the World Economic Forum’s rankings of nations with the smallest gender gap.
Now, in a major stride towards trying to close the gap in pay once and for all, the Iceland government passed a new law that requires all of their public and private companies employing above 25 people, to pay employees equally “regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexuality, or nationality,” according to a report on The Associated Press (AP)
These companies will be certified by the government after they provide proof that they pay men and women, and people of all races, religions and nationalities equally, for work of equal value. There are a few other countries that have “equal-salary certificate policies,” but the AP report points out that Iceland is the first such country to mandate this for both private and public firms.
In Iceland, the current gender pay gap is somewhere between 14 to 18% , according to the World Economic Forum. With this new legislation, Iceland hopes to close its gender pay gap by 2022. And if the legislation is cleared by their Parliament, its Equal Pay Standard will be in force by 2020.
In fact, in protest of this injustice, thousands of women across Iceland staged peaceful resistance by shutting shop at work 2.38pm, because the stats about the gap suggest that their pay only technically covers their work up to that time, compared to the boys.
"Equal rights are human rights," he said. "We need to make sure that men and women enjoy equal opportunity in the workplace. It is our responsibility to take every measure to achieve that," said Equality and Social Affairs Minister Thorsteinn Viglundsson.
Iceland has made significant progress in trying to close their gender gap, through policies such as quotas on corporate boards and government committees, and 48 percent female representation in the Icelandic Parliament.
Norway, Sweden, Rwanda and Ireland, in that order, follow Iceland as far as countries with the smallest gender gaps are concerned, the gaps being measured in four main fields namely health, education, economy, and politics. If one talks about the gender pay gap in particular, as a region, Western Europe is the closest to eradicating it, and is said to be 47 years away from that reality. While South Asia is said to be the furthest at over a thousand years away, another alarming trend is that regions like North America are regressing.