On Jan. 1, Iceland made it illegal to pay men more than women—an inequality that exists (with respect to average gross hourly and annual income) in almost every nation. This legislation made the Nordic island nation, population 334,252, the first country in the world to ban pay discrimination on the basis of gender.
The law isn’t complicated: Under it, companies and government agencies employing at least 25 people will have to obtain government certification of their equal-pay policies. Companies and agencies that fail to prove pay parity will face fines. [Quartz]
It’s worth noting something often overlooked when discussing the gender pay gap in the UK(an issue the Liberal Democrats did much on in government). The issue now in the UK has (thankfully) mostly moved on from simple discrimination of the form ‘you’re a woman, therefore I’m going to pay you less’.
However, the evidence that such behaviour is now so rare isn’t evidence that the gender pay gap does not exist, or that it is a mirage based on different people choosing to do different jobs.
Rather, the gender pay gap problem in the UK is now predominantly in two forms. First, some professions which pay well but are male-dominated, such as information technology. Are the many continuing aspects of sexism in that sector not in any way a cause (as well perhaps as a consequence) of the gender imbalance? Discrimination that puts people off certain better paying career options is still discrimination even though it happens at one step removed from ‘I’m going to pay that woman less’.
Second, the way many habits of pay setting disadvantage people who take career breaks – such as the way number of continuous years of working in a job, and being full rather than part time, gives a pay and promotion edge over factors such as ability and productivity.
Neither of those preferences are ways pay has to be set – and given both involve downplaying judging how good and productive someone is in a job for other factors, tackling such discrimination in the end will make the whole economic more prosperous and so able to support better public services for all.
Just as with more women on company boards, we’d all gain from that.