Iceland is not waiting for the gender pay gap to fix itself.
Starting January 1, 2018, it is now illegal for employers to pay women less than men. In Iceland, both public and private employers with 25 employees or more will need obtain government certification of equal pay policies. Organizations that fail to obtain the certification will face fines.
The country, according to the 2017 Global Gender Gap Report, already has the most gender equity of any country. The report examines the gender gap across four dimensions: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.
The United States ranks 49th, just ahead of Kazakhstan but behind Uganda.
American women earn about 83% of what men earn in 2015. The gap has been narrowing for several decades — but very slowly. If the gender pay gaps narrows at the same rate as between 2001 and the present, women will not achieve pay equity until 2119.
Iceland wants to accelerate the process. “We have had legislation saying that pay should be equal for men and women for decades now but we still have a pay gap,” Dagny Osk Aradottir Pind, a board member of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association, told Al Jazeera.
The legislation was supported by Iceland’s center-right ruling part and the opposition. A notable factor in Iceland’s decision: almost 50 percent of Iceland’s parliament is female. Iceland ranks first in “political empowerment” in the Global Gender Gap Report.
The United States ranks 96th in political empowerment of women, behind Nepal, Algeria and Pakistan. Women make up just 19 percent of Congress.