Iceland Has a Solve for the Gender Pay Gap


Iceland has a goal of closing its gender pay gap by 2022 and — hold on to your cynical hats — is actually passing legislation to support it. Yesterday Thorsteinn Viglundsson, Iceland’s Equality and Social Affairs Minister, announced a new law that will require companies do their part and prove it. It’s essentially the legislative form of “pic or it didn’t happen.” Extra kudos on the fortuitous timing.

“The government said it will introduce legislation to parliament this month,” reports NBC, “requiring all employers with more than 25 staff to obtain certification to prove they give equal pay for work of equal value.”

Progressive parties and governments all over the world have acknowledged the pay gap and expressed a desire to close it. “Acknowledged” and “expressed” — that’s Activism Lite, which is great for sound bites but less great for actual progress. While a few policies have cropped up as a result, we’ve yet to see actual laws that address it head on.

“It is a burden to put on companies to have to comply with a law like this,” Viglundsson said. “But we put such burdens on companies all the time when it comes to auditing your annual accounts or turning in your tax report.”

I guess it’s not surprising that Iceland is first. The country “has been ranked the best country in the world for gender equality by the World Economic Forum,” says NBC. But also: “Icelandic women still earn, on average, 14 to 18 percent less than men.”

Regulation-shy parties often argue that people and companies ought to be trusted to do the right thing. It’s a cozy worldview. But the pay gap in the U.S. — still 70 cents to the dollar — is closing at a decreasing pace. In fact, the data says it’s not set to close for another 70 years. SEVENTY. When most of us will be dead and our kids will be retiring. (Sorry!)

It will be interesting to see how more direct government intervention plays out, and I wonder if such a law could ever pass in the U.S. What are your thoughts on this kind of legislation? How has your company dealt with this issue (or have they)?

Photo by Raymond Reuter via Getty Images.

Haley Nahman

Haley Nahman

Haley Nahman is the Features Director at Man Repeller.

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