Iceland is on a mission to close the country’s gender pay gap by 2022, and they aren’t messing around.
The country announced on International Women’s Day that it will be the first to require proof of equal pay from employers.
If the proposal becomes law, the country will demand all employers prove there is no discrimination in pay between gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, or nationality.
The new law will apply to all companies with more than 25 staff members. It applies to both public and private firms.
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The law is expected to be approved by Parliament as it has support from both government and opposition parties. Once approved, lawmakers hope to implement the law by 2020.
It is a first for any country to put laws into place that make equal pay a requirement. While other countries, like Switzerland, offer benefits and branding for companies with equal pay marking out a roadmap to end gender pay gaps, none have implemented laws, until now.
"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," said Thorsteinn Viglundsson, Iceland’s Equality and Social Affairs Minister.
The decision to mandate equal pay comes after thousands of women staged a protest on October 24, leaving work at 2:38 p.m. to emphasize the 14% gender pay gap in the country. And last year’s protest followed an even larger movement 41 years earlier when 90% of Icelandic women refused to cook, clean, work, or perform any childcare duties in protest of gender inequality.
Iceland has 48% gender parity in government — the highest in the world. Additionally, the country passed comprehensive parental leave standards in 2000. Today, nearly 90% of men take parental leave which can lead to more equality in childcare and household responsibilities.
Equal pay has been the toughest challenge for the country in achieving complete gender equality. The country decreased the gender pay gap from 15-14% between 2005 and 2016. Clearly, the gap has been slow to close. A recent report found it would be 52 years before the country achieve equal pay at it’s current rate.
Still, Iceland has been ranked number one for gender equality by the World Economic Forum for the past eight years. Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Rwanda followed behind in 2016.
Looks like Iceland will be keeping atop that list, and giving other countries guidelines to achieve equal pay.
While some who opposed the new law complained it will be a burden on businesses, Viglundsson argued that the country puts regulations on companies all the time and this time, it’s for a worthy cause.
“You have to dare to take new steps, to be bold in the fight against injustice," he said.