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Iceland Becomes First Country to Legalize Equal Pay
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12 Jan 2018 12:11 PM EST

-by Chanel Adams, Staff Writer; Image: Map of Iceland (Image Source: Public Domain)

Iceland has become the first country to legalize gender gap pay.

It's now illegal for employers to pay men more than women. The legislation came into effect on Monday, January 1. Under this new law, companies and government agencies employing at least 25 people or more will have to obtain government certification of their equal-pay policies, reports Al Jazeera.

If they fail to comply with these new rules, they will face severe fines.

"The legislation is basically a mechanism that companies and organisations ... evaluate every job that's being done, and then they get a certification after they confirm the process if they are paying men and women equally," said Dagny Osk Aradottir Pind, a board member of the Icelandic Women's Rights Association told Al Jazeera. "It's a mechanism to ensure women and men are being paid equally. We have had legislation saying that pay should be equal for men and women for decades now but we still have a pay gap."

Iceland is an island country in the North Atlantic Ocean that has 323,000 people. The country has a strong economy thanks to tourism and fisheries. For the past nine years, the country has been ranked by the World Economic Forum (WEF) as the world's most gender-friendly country. The Global Gender Gap Report based its findings on health, survival, economic opportunities, and political empowerment to find the gender-friendliness in each country. According to the latest WEF report, the five top gender-friendly countries are Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Rwanda.

Yemen was scored as the lowest-ranked of the 144 countries in the report. The low performance stems from its struggles in economic opportunities and participation in its war-stricken country. Hungary was the only European country that was ranked lower than the global average. It was scored poorly based on political empowerment.

Fifty-two other countries fell below the global average in 2017, including China, Liberia, and the United Arab Emirates. Sixty other countries saw their overall gender gap pay decrease.

Since the reports started in 2006, Iceland has 10 percent of its total gender gap, making it one of the fastest-improving countries in the world. The U.S. and many other countries should follow suit. This new legislation was supported by Iceland's centre-right government as well as its parliament, where nearly 50 percent of the members are women. The Icelandic government hopes to completely wipe out the wage gap by 2020.

"I think that now people are starting to realise that this is a systematic problem that we have to tackle with new methods," said Aradottir Pind. "Women have been talking about this for decades and I really feel that we have managed to raise awareness, and we have managed to get to the point that people realise that the legislation we have had in place is not working, and we need to do something more.”

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