By the end of April, Iceland will be the first government in the world to outlaw the gender pay gay. Iceland is used to being remarkable when it comes to advancing gender equality.
Iceland’s gender pay gap was 14% in 2016, compared to 20% in 2015. The political commitment is to eradicate the gender pay gap completely by 2022. On both the bill and the political objective there is a consensus, as no party is electable if they do not have a positive gender agenda. The government and the opposition committed to the bill and the political objective on International Women’s Day (March 8) and are now proceeding with drafting a bill, AP reports.
The draft bill envisages the annual obligation for every company with more than 25 employees to issue a gender equality certificate. The only legal precedent for an equal pay certificate is the state of Minnesota in the U.S. By January 1st, 2018; the law will come into effect.
On October 25, 2016, at 14.38, women walked out of their jobs and gathered across the Icelandic Parliament, in the capital Reykjavik. Thousands of women demanded from legislators to address the issue of gender pay gap, immediately. That was not the first time. Since 1975, women take a “day off” for serious issues, show their power in numbers, and are mostly listened to.
The bill does not have any affirmative action undertone since it is founded on the principle of equal pay for equal work. However, Iceland is not hostile to the notion of positive discrimination and does have a 40% quota for boards of businesses over a certain size.
The normative approach, combined with a culture of uncompromising commitment to gender equality makes Iceland a global champion.
Iceland ranks first in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap index. The index is composite and includes a broad spectrum of variables ranking states for a variety of things ranging from explicit pay differentials to political representation, corporate governance, and even measures to ensure women engage in Science, Technology, and Mathematics (STEM).
Can someone outlaw the gender pay gap is the question?
Speaking to the public broadcaster (RUV) in October, the President of the Icelandic Confederation of Labour, Gylfi Arnbjörnsson, argued that gender pay discrimination is illegal for 60 years. Contracts can take into account education, the type of job, but not gender.
With a 14% gap, Iceland is the best in the world. But, the rationale of the law is that in the context of a gender equality audit – which is common in a number of countries – businesses will have to prove they offer equal pay or face the prospect of a hefty fine.
The best is not good enough because when it comes to gender equality Iceland does not have a “comparative perspective.”