Insights & Analyses

Iceland becomes first country in world to make equal pay for women the law

January 3, 2018

In a bid to enforce gender and identity equality in the workplace, Iceland has become the first nation to legally require employers to pay employees equally, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexuality or nationality.

In terms of gender equality, Iceland is already ranked highest by the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap. The organization found that as of 2016, the nordic island closed 87 percent of its overall gender gap.

Officials in the nation of 330,000 aren’t content with that number, however, and seek to move closer to total equality in both public and private workspaces.

Iceland’s new law was proposed last March and found widespread support in the government, among all of its parties. It officially went into law at the start of 2018.

Attention was brought to continued gaps in pay between women and men in Iceland in October of 2016, when women staged a protest and walked out of their jobs at 2:38 p.m. The demonstration called attention to the fact that pay discrepancies meant women were effectively working without pay after that time every day.

The 2018 law is one step in an ongoing effort to close Iceland’s gender pay gap by 2022. As of 2016, women in Iceland earned 14 to 18 percent less than men, the World Economic Forum.

Though it still has progress to be made for equality, Iceland is by far the top country in the Global Gender Gap Index, with a score of 0.874 out of a best-possible score of 1. The next closest country is its nordic neighbor Finland, with a score of 0.845, followed by Norway with 0.842, and Sweden in fifth with 0.815.

Other major country rankings include Germany (13th, 0.766), France (17th, 0.755), the U.K. (20th, 0.752), the U.S. (45th, 0.722), India (87th, 0.683), China (99th, 0.673), and Japan (111th, 0.66).