Iceland Becomes First Country to Enforce Equal Pay Laws

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The fight for equal pay for equal work has been fought for decades in the U.S. While the U.S. made gender wage discrimination illegal under the Equal Pay Act of 1963, we know that in nearly all industries women are paid less than men.

Iceland, however, is charting new territory. On Monday, it became the first country in the world to legalize equal pay, Al Jazeera reports.

Under the new law, companies and government agencies that employ at least 25 people will be fined if they can’t prove they pay men and women equally. This means that companies are actually being held accountable.


“The legislation is basically a mechanism that companies and organisations...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, told Al Jazeera. “We have had legislation saying that pay should be equal for men and women for decades now but we still have a pay gap.”

Al Jazeera notes that Iceland is already among the top performers when it comes to equal pay. It has been ranked by the World Economic Forum (WEF) as No. 1 in gender equality for the past nine years. In its 2017 Global Gender Gap Report, the WEF wrote that Iceland had closed more than 87% of its overall gender gap.

Meanwhile, the U.S. comes in No. 49 on the same report, behind Peru and above Zimbabwe. The report looks at economic opportunity, political empowerment, and health and survival to measure its results.

What’s more, Iceland plans to completely eradicate the wage gap by 2020. But even if they stopped at the new law, that’s certainly more impressive than our antiquated policies.

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