One of the major challenges at moment is the gender pay gap, and women in Iceland have been working to change things for decades.
According to UN Women globally, women make only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. Given how things stand there will be no equal pay until 2069.
That is 51 years away. A very depressing thought. While governments and organisations work towards bridging the gap, we know there are several seemingly insurmountable challenges strewn along the path, with gender inequality, patriarchy and gender bias as well as limited access to resources and safe workplaces, and lack of conversations surrounding maternity still looming large.
Iceland has, however, shown the world how women can take charge and push for change. Women in Iceland will walk out of their jobs on October 24, called the Women’s Day Off or Kvennafri, to highlight their contributions to the economy. In the last 43 years, women in Iceland have walked out of their jobs five times to protest the gender pay gap. This protest was first held in 1975. And, since then, walkouts have happened in 1985, 2005, 2010 and 2016.
The Kvennafri 2018 website states, “According to the newest figures from Iceland Statistics, the average wages of women in Iceland are only 74 percent of the average wages of men. Women are therefore paid 26 percent less on average than men. Therefore, women have earned their wages after only five hours and 55 minutes, in an average workday of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Women stop being paid for their work at 2:55 p.m.” The symbolic protest, therefore, happens with the walkout beginning at 2.55 pm.
This year the walkout will also highlight the #MeToo movement taking the globe by fire, by focusing on workplace violence and harassment. This is a major problem and something that needs attention.
The World Economic Forum Gender Pay Gap Report of 2017, which benchmarks 144 countries on their progress towards gender parity across four thematic dimensions: Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment, ranks Iceland first, while India holds the lowly 108th position.
Yet another report titled, 'Leave No one Behind', showed that over 51 percent of work done by women in India does not get monetary compensation, and is unpaid labour, essentially, and unaccounted for in national statistics. A policy research working paper on the Precarious Drop Reassessing Patterns of Female Labor Force Participation in India by World Bank sheds light on the fact that female labour force participation (FLFP) has been falling. And the paper suggests that increasing women’s access to education and skills will not necessarily lead to a rise in FLFP.
The report states, “Gains will not be realised unless social norms around women’s (and men’s) work also change, and/or unless rural labour markets offer forms of employment that are acceptable and attractive for women and their families.”
The Kvennafri website states, “We have gained only 47 minutes in thirteen years. If progress continues at the same pace, we will need to wait another 29 years before women in Iceland have the same wages on average as men, in the year 2047!”
So if this is how Iceland has fared upon trying to push for change, the rest of the world including India has a huge challenge to contend with. Perhaps it's time for women in India to take a leaf out of Iceland’s book on how to take charge and take steps to bridge the gender gap.
With the #MeToo movement pushing workplaces to look at safety, it is time to push for equal pay too.