Iceland becomes first country to legislate equal pay

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Iceland has been widely praised for introducing legislation on New Year’s Day that imposes fines on any company or government agency with over 25 staff without a government certificate demonstrating pay equality.

The move is part of a bid to eradicate the gender pay gap by 2022 in the Nordic nation where 38 percent of parliamentarians are female – above the global average – including Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir.

“Iceland is ranked as world’s most gender equal country by (the World Economic Forum) … Clearly Iceland is very serious about gender equality,” former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark wrote on Twitter.

Equal rights researchers said they hoped Iceland’s legislation would encourage others to follow suit in tackling the gender pay gap while also highlighting the need to address the lack of women politicians globally.

The World Economic Forum reported last year an economic gap of 58 percent between the sexes and forecast women would have to wait 217 years before they earn as much as men and have equal representation in the workplace.

This gap was highlighted amid growing concerns about the lack of female lawmakers globally as figures show only about one in four parliamentarians is a woman and fewer than one in five government ministers is female.

Data from the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the international organisation of parliaments, showed women held 23.6 percent of seats in 193 parliaments on September 2017.

“The new law by Iceland can help change attitudes to women in business as well as in politics, and inspire other countries to do the same,” said Virginie Le Masson, a research fellow at the London-based Overseas Development Institute (ODI).

“Ample evidence shows that women work as much as men and are still paid less,” she said.

US independent Bernie Sanders, a leading liberal voice in the Senate, called on the United States to follow Iceland’s example.

“We must follow the example of our brothers and sisters in Iceland and demand equal pay for equal work now, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexuality or nationality,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

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