Iceland becomes first country to enshrine equal pay as law



Iceland has became the first country in the world to make equal pay for both genders part of their law.



Brought in to celebrate International Women’s Day,  the new law states that companies with 25 or more staff must prove that they pay all employees the same – BBC News reports. Not only will this benefit women – equal pay will be mandatory regardless of gender, sexuality or ethnicity.




Despite Iceland being one of the highest-ranking countries for gender equality, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, in October 2016, thousands of Icelandic women left their workplaces and congregated in Austurvollur Square in Reykjavik.



The women left their workplaces at 2:38pm, cutting their typical nine to five workdays by precisely two hours and 22 minutes – equivalent to around 30%. This was to mark the 30% wage gap between men in women in Iceland. Iceland’s Equality and Social Affairs Minister Thorsteinn Viglundsson, commented on the new law: “Equal rights are human rights. We need to make sure that men and women enjoy equal opportunities in the workplace. It is our responsibility to take every measure to achieve that.”



Iceland already has the highest number of women in politics compared with other governments across the world. However, women in the country still earn between 14% and 18% less than their male counterparts, on average. The country says it wants to eradicate the gender pay gap by 2022.



In the UK, the gender pay gap stands at 18%, according to research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS). And the Government aren’t helping matters with their stagnating strategy, the cross-party Women and Equalities Committee has said.



In addition, according to The Fawcett Society, at the current rate of progress it will take over 60 years to close the gender pay gap. It will take 170 years for women across the world to earn as much as men and account for half of the world’s bosses.



So why are Iceland trailblazing the lead in gender equality? On October 24 1975, 90% of Iceland’s women went on strike and refused to work, cook or look after children. An estimated 25,000 women gathered in Reykjavik and paved the way for change, leading to the election of Iceland’s and Europe’s first female President, Vigdis Finnbogadottir, just five years later.



Every year, to mark the courageous event, women gather in Reykjavik to fight for their right to be paid equally. “What happened that day was the first step for women’s emancipation in Iceland,” said Finnbogadotti, according to the BBC. “It completely paralysed the country and opened the eyes of many men.”




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