Iceland’s New Year’s Resolution: Fix the Gender Wage Gap

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The prize for the best way to ring in 2018 goes to Iceland. On January 1, 2018, the Equal Pay Standard went into effect. Essentially, all businesses employing 25 or more people must prove to the Icelandic government that their male and female employees are receiving the same wages for the same work. Every three years, companies fitting that criteria are required to submit reports on the salaries of their employees to the government for certification—or for penalization, usually in the form of fines. The Equal Pay Standard has been in the works since last March when it was proposed, and was formally passed in June.

The passage of these measures will come as no surprise if you’re familiar with Iceland’s track record for fighting sexism. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, which measures differences between mean and women in health, economics, politics, and education in 144 countries, has ranked Iceland number one in the world for gender equality for the past nine years. The United States’ ranking was abysmal in comparison with other similarly developed nations, falling at #49.

When specifically looking at the gender wage gap, the differences between Iceland and the United States become even more clear. The Icelandic government estimated in 2015 that women earned anywhere from 14-21% less than men. In the United States, white women earn 21.4% less than white men, Latinas earn 54.4% less, and Black women earn a shocking 60.5% less than white men.

As we move into 2018, the hope for the United States government to pass similar measures is bleak, to put it as nicely as possible. However, with Iceland raising the bar for governments everywhere, here’s to hoping that it’s their example that other countries will follow—and not ours. For now, it’s important for us to stay aware of the everyday injustices that are taking place with the wage gap, and to never stop talking about it.

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