As countries all over the world celebrated International Women’s Day on Wednesday, and women’s rights activists demanded pay equality, Iceland was making it happen. The country has become the first to require proof from employers that they offer equal pay for equal work.
According to the Associated Press, the Nordic country is rolling out an Equal Pay Standard in an effort to get rid of compensation discrimination against women and minorities. The Icelandic government plans to introduce the legislation to parliament later this month.
So, businesses with more than 25 employees will be required to prove that those who do the same work are paid fairly and equally, regardless of race, gender, nationality or sexuality.
Some argued the law imposes unneeded bureaucracy on private firms, and is unnecessary because the wage gap is closing. And while Equality and Social Affairs Minister Thorsteinn Viglundsson acknowledged that it’s a burden for companies “to comply with a law like this,” he likened it to companies getting audited or filing tax reports every year.
“You have to dare to take new steps, to be bold in the fight against injustice,” said Viglundsson, adding that “the time is right to do something radical about this issue.”
“Equal rights are human rights. 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,” he said.
Iceland has been ranked the best country in the world for gender equality by the World Economic Forum, the Associated Press reported, but Icelandic women still earn, on average, 14 to 18 per cent less than men. In October, thousands of the country’s women left work at 2:38 p.m. and demonstrated outside parliament to protest the gender pay gap. Women’s rights groups calculated that after that time each day, women are working for free.
Iceland’s goal is to close the pay gap by 2022, and based on their determination, as well as the government’s support, we think they’ll accomplish their mission. And hopefully they’ll inspire every other country in the world to do the same.