Iceland becomes first country to legalize equal pay

Iceland's ministers of the government of Iceland pose for a group photo as a new coalition was officially formed at Bessastadir in November 2017. File Photo by Birgir Thor Hardarson/EPA

Jan. 3 (UPI) — Iceland passed equal pay legislation, becoming the first country in the world to make it illegal for men to be paid more than women for equal work.

The legislation ensures that companies and government agencies employing at least 25 people will have to obtain government certification of their equal-pay policies.

Those companies or organizations that fail to prove pay equality will be fined.

“The legislation is basically a mechanism that companies and organizations … evaluate every job that’s being done, and then they get a certification after they confirm the process if they are paying men and women equally,” Dagny Osk Aradottir Pind, a board member of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association, said to Al Jazeera.

“It’s a mechanism to ensure women and men are being paid equally. We have had legislation saying that pay should be equal for men and women for decades now but we still have a pay gap.”

The new law came into effect on Monday after being announced on International Women’s Day on March 8, 2017 receiving support by Iceland’s center-right coalition government as well as the opposition.

In Iceland, nearly 50 percent of the parliament members are women.

“I think that now people are starting to realise that this is a systematic problem that we have to tackle with new methods,” Pind said.

“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.”

Iceland has been ranked as the best in the world for gender equality by the World Economic Forum for nine years in a row and has closed around 10 percent of its gender gap since 2006.

The five best performers in the global gender gap are Iceland, Norway, Finland, Rwanda and Sweden while Yemen is ranked as the lowest of the 144 countries.


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