On Tuesday, Iceland’s parliament presented a bill requiring all companies to prove they offer equal pay to employees. The proposed bill takes an intersectional approach, prohibiting wage discrimination on the basis of gender, race, religion, disability, occupational disability, age or sexual orientation.
This bill will be the toughest law in the world which seeks to tackle the gender wage gap. Companies will be audited and face fines if they do not comply with the law. As well, the bill will apply to both private and public sector industry.
According to Iceland’s 2015 statistics, the gender wage gap within the country is 17%. Iceland was also ranked first in the World Economic Forum’s 2015 Global Gap Index. Following Iceland, was Norway, Finland and Sweden.
Despite being a global leader in wage equity, many women are actively fighting for their right to equal pay. The introduction of the bill follows a women’s strike in the capital city of Reykjavik in October. Thousands of women left work early to take to the street in protest of gender pay disparity. The women walked out at exactly 2:38pm, the moment they began working for free. Earlier protests saw women walking out at 2:08pm in 2005 and 2:25pm in 2008. While this indicates a slowly declining wage gap, it would take 50 years to close it at the current rate. Through its new proposed bill, Iceland plans to eliminate its pay gap completely by 2022.
Unequal pay has been illegal since the 1950’s in Iceland, and voluntary equal pay measures have been available to companies since 2012. However, the proposed bill will require that any company or institution which exceeds 25 employees must certify its equal-pay programs.
48% of Iceland’s parliamentary seats are held by women. This makes Iceland’s female representation the most equal in the world, without the use of a quota system. In contrast, the world average is 23%. Likewise, as of April 3, 2016, Canada had reached a domestic record number of 27.2% of parliamentary seats currently held by women.
The bill is supported by both the centre-right government, and the official opposition. Now, the bill will be subject to debate. If it passes, it is set to go into effect in January of 2018.