Iceland Becomes First Country To Make It Illegal For Men To Earn More Than Women

Iceland has become the first country to make it illegal for men to earn more than women at work.


In a historic move for equal rights across the globe, Iceland has become the first country to pass the law - which means companies and government agencies will be legally required to obtain official government certification for their equal pay policies.

The new law will apply to any company or government agency that employs over 25 people, and those failing to prove equal pay will face fines.

"[It's] a mechanism to ensure women and men are being paid equally," Dagny Osk Aradottir Pind, a board member of the Icelandic Women's Rights Association, told Al-Jazeera.

"We've had legislation saying pay should be equal for men and women for decades now but we still have a pay gap."

Althing, the Icelandic Parliament. Credit: PA
Althing, the Icelandic Parliament. Credit: PA

The law was officially announced back on International Women's Day, on 8 March last year, but came into effect on Monday.

The legislation was supported by both Iceland's centre-right coalition government and the opposition in the country's parliament - where almost 50 percent of 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," Ms Aradottir Pind also 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 realise that the legislation we have had in place is not working, and we need to do something more."

Iceland, which is home to approximately 323,000 people, has a strong economy that's based on tourism and fisheries.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

It's also been ranked the world's most gender-equal country for the past nine years by the World Economic Forum in its Global Gender Gap Report. The report uses markers like economic opportunity, political empowerment and health and survival to compare the state of gender equality in a given country.

In the most recent report, the UK came in 15th place - with a 16.9 percent pay gap between men and women. Yemen was the lowest-ranked of the 144 countries, while top best performers included Norway, Finland, Rwanda and Sweden - showing that Scandinavian and Nordic countries are doing pretty well compared to the rest of the world.

The Icelandic government has also said it is committed to closing the gender pay gap by 2022.

Someone please buy Iceland a pint. And then follow suit, of course.

Featured Image Credit: PA

Jess Hardiman

Jess Hardiman is a journalist who graduated from Manchester University with a BA in Film Studies, English Language and Literature, and has previously worked for Time Out and The Skinny among others.

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