Iceland wants to eliminate the pay gap by 2022 — and it just took a big step towards that goal.
As of Jan. 1, it is illegal for companies in the country to pay women less than men. Officials proposed the Equal Pay Standard last March, the parliament passed it in June, and the legislation went into effect this week.
Icelandic businesses with 25 or more full-time employees need to acquire proof of fair wages among employees from an accredited auditor. Companies with more than 250 employees have until the end of the year to get the certification, while smaller companies have until 2021.
This is not the first equal pay law in Iceland. Since 1961, the nation has had variations of gender pay equity laws on the books, but a pay gap of about 5.7 percent still prevails. This latest legislation seeks to finally eliminate the pay gap.
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Even critics of the law are optimistic. “I hope there will be change,” Halldor Benjamin Thorbergsson, manager of the Confederation of Icelandic Employers told The New York Times. “The law is about equal pay for equal work, between everyone.”
While attending an International Women’s Day summit in New York City early last year, Iceland’s Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson discussed his plan to achieve gender pay equity. With this latest announcement, the country is well on its way.
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“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,” Dagny Osk Aradottir Pind, a member of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association, shared with AlJazeera.
The World Economic Forum has ranked Iceland as the most gender-equal country for the last nine years — but the country still thinks it can do better. “We may rank number one in the world at the moment, but the job is not done still,” Prime Minister Benediktsson said.
Iceland is followed by Norway, Finland, Rwanda, Sweden, Nicaragua, Slovenia, Ireland, New Zealand and the Philippines in the top 10 countries on WEF’s gender-equality list.
The U.S. currently ranks 49th, following Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, France and Spain. Based on 2015 figures, American women earned 83 percent of what men earned, according to the Pew Research Center. This means women worked an extra 44 days to earn the same amount as men.