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EDITORIAL: Iceland's gender equality law should be a model for the US



For 2018, Iceland chose to tackle the issue of gender equality, specifically how to eliminate a salary gap between men and women. Starting in 2020, companies in Iceland must prove that they are paying their female employees as much as their male counterparts

The Editorial Board believes that this action is a progressive step in addressing the wage gap that exists between men and women and a similar law designed to eliminate this economic inequality should be replicated in the United States.

Many media sites, like Al Jazeera, have incorrectly reported that Iceland is the first country to make unequal pay illegal.  Actually, equal pay has been the law in Iceland since 1961

The Equality Act was passed in 1976 and stated equal work should merit equal pay.  When the wage gap continued to persist, the Equality Act was updated in 2008 with the same stipulation. While these laws have been on the book since the 1960s, the wage gap in Iceland was 17 percent in 2017

Starting in 2020, companies with more than 25 employees will have to prove their female employees are paid the same as male employees in similar positions. This proof needs to be confirmed every three years, and if these companies cannot provide the proof, the government will fine them.

Iceland has had one of the smallest wage gaps globally, and  is first in the world in areas like political empowerment and educational attainment when it comes to gender equality, according to the World Economic Forum, an international not-for-profit organization that focuses on how consumers can create social change. The fact that such a large pay gap still exists even in countries that excel at providing gender equality in other areas of society only highlights what a problem the wage gap is.    

For opponents of the wage gap, one claim is that the wage gap exists because women work in professions that have lower salaries than men. However, when occupation is controlled for, men still make more money than their female counterparts. This affects women at every level of the socioeconomic scale. The Economic Policy Institute, a non-profit think tank, found that at higher wages, the gap between the wages of male and female executives in the United States is larger, with women making 74 cents for each dollar their male counterparts do.

If one of the best countries for gender equality is addressing the wage gap, it is pivotal the U.S. should as well. This new law is a step in the right direction to control for the wage gap, and the U.S. should consider passing a similar law.  

The Pew Research Center found that women in the U.S. made 83 cents for each dollar men earned. And while the gap between men and women has decreased in recent years, the gap is still a problem. Some possible reasons for this difference could be pregnancy, the higher proportions of women in traditionally lower-paying fields and gender discrimination.  

Compared to the rest of the world, Iceland appears to be miles ahead. This law is a step in the right direction to make gender equality in the workforce more of a reality. There is still work to do, though. As Icelandic Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson said in a speech on International Women's Day, “gender equality benefits all of us.

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