On Wednesday, International Women’s Day 2017, Iceland announced that it will require every company with over 25 employees to prove that they offer equal pay regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexuality, or nationality.
The government of Iceland said it will introduce legislation to parliament this month and expects it to be passed as it has support from both the centre-right government and opposition lawmakers.
Once passed as law, companies in Iceland will have to obtain a certificate demonstrating equal pay for equal work. The government said it hopes to implement the law by 2020, as part of its larger initiative to eradicate the gender pay gap by 2022.
According to a report by The Independent, other countries have had similar schemes in place but Iceland is the first to make it mandatory.
Iceland’s Social Affairs and Equality Minister Thorsteinn Viglundsson said: "The time is right to do something radical about this issue."
"Equal rights are human rights. We need to make sure that men and women enjoy equal opportunity in the workplace. It is our responsibility to take every measure to achieve that," he said.
In October of last year, thousands of working women all across Iceland walked out of their workplaces at 2:38pm to protest against the gender pay gap. According to unions and women’s organisations, on a typical eight-hour work day, women essentially get paid the same amount a man would get if he worked till 2:38pm, meaning women are essentially working for free after that time.
In response to some who have argued that the equal-pay law will impose unnecessary bureaucracy on firms, Minister Viglundsson said: "[W]e put such burdens on companies all the time when it comes to auditing your annual accounts or turning in your tax report.
"You have to dare to take new steps, to be bold in the fight against injustice."
Iceland is already a frontrunner in terms of leading the fight for gender equality. It has been ranked number one for gender equality by the World Economic Forum for eight years in a row. However, women in Iceland still earn 14 to 18% less on average than men, compared to the UK’s 17.5%.