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Iceland tries to close the gender wage gap by publicly embarrassing companies

View of downtown Reykjavik on April 27, 2016. (Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post)

Iceland may be a popular stopover destination for travelers flying to the United States, but when it comes to the gender wage gap, it's worlds apart. While US women were paid 18 percent less than their male colleagues doing similar jobs in 2013, according to the latest comparable study, the "unexplained wage gap" was only 5.7 percent in Iceland, and it is about to be reduced even more.

a new law entered into force in the country, designed to publicly embarrass companies that are considered discriminatory against women in terms of wages. Companies with more than 25 employees must now obtain government certification that employees are paid equally for the same work as their male colleagues. The law comes after previous legislation prohibiting discrimination by employers will not close the pay gap, although it decreased by more than 2 percentage points since 2008.

Potential job seekers could verify if a company is certified before submitting the application and those who can not also be exposed in the media or on social networks.

Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders took Facebook this week to demand the introduction of a similar mechanism in the United States. "We must follow the example of our brothers and sisters in Iceland and demand the same salary for the same work now, regardless of their sex, ethnicity, sexuality or nationality," Sanders wrote. "While we fight against the republican efforts to reverse the rights of women to second class, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that our true objective is to advance and expand women's rights," he concluded.

The then Minister of Social Affairs of Iceland, Thorsteinn Viglundsson sounded similarly excited when the law was proposed at the beginning of last year. "It's the right time to do something radical on this issue," Viglundsson told the AP at the time.

But how much of a model to follow is Iceland's last attempt to eradicate the gender pay gap?

While the measures may be unprecedented, they probably will not be a silver bullet either.

Approved by parliament last summer, the new law has been in process for several years. The researchers created a complicated model to make comparable salaries, even if the official work requirements or work schedules may differ on paper. Government auditors will examine all companies with more than 25 employees in the next four years, although it is unclear if companies that do not obtain certification, known as "Jafnlaunavottun", will face sanctions, in addition to public opprobrium.

Instead of banning gender wage gaps, the new law is conceived as a mandatory version and executed by the government of other public embarrassment efforts already introduced in other countries, as my colleague Jena McGregor wrote last spring when proposed for the first time the law:

British By law, companies with more than 250 employees must publish four figures each year on their websites and a government site, but will provide the information on their own, without providing certification . Each company will have to share its gender pay gap, the gender bonus gap, the proportion of men and women receiving bonuses, and how men and women classify in terms of pay within the organization.

In Switzerland, companies can request equal payment "certified" by a third party without disclosing confidential information, but it is not mandatory. In Minnesota, after a law was signed in 2014, certain state contractors must obtain an "Equal Payment Certificate" from the state before executing a contract.

While a growing number of states have strengthened their protections for employees with new equal wage laws, with California even requiring companies to show that they pay men and women equally for similar jobs, companies do not have to disclose the information publicly. Companies that want to become federal contractors have to share summaries of their salary data with the government, but once again, the data is not published.

Even if Iceland's new law manages to close or significantly reduce the gender wage gap, critics have pointed out that other factors continue to hold women back. While both men and women in Iceland are granted three days of non-transferable child-care leave, only a few men choose to take it. And women are still more likely to interrupt their careers to devote more time to their families than men.

"(The) certification requirement could help eradicate the 'unexplained gender pay gap', but it is unlikely to reduce the largest 'explainable wage gap' (eg, due to the different hours of paid work), "concluded Stefán Ólafsson, researcher at the University of Iceland, in a summer report for the European Commission in 2017. In total, women still earn 22 percent less in Iceland than men although that number also includes women who work part-time or do not.

Compulsory babysitting for men and women would be a more radical step, critics of existing legislation say, even in a country like Iceland, which regularly leads the equality rankings About four decades ago, women made gender equality a political priority in Iceland when they went on strike, today, many of their demands previous are considered obvious as the school. s offer Gender Studies classes that try to make students more aware of everyday discrimination and prevailing stereotypes. The country's prime minister, Katrin Jakobsdottir, is an avowed feminist who has been pushing for stricter legislation since she came to power last November.

But the Jakobsdottir government may be an atypical case for a global movement that has recently suffered new setbacks. Since 2006, the World Economic Forum has tried to measure whether women face more or less inequality in the world. And last year, for the first time, he said things were getting worse again.

The authors of the report concluded that there were fewer women participating in the labor force than in previous years, and that wages were becoming less equal again. While Iceland's deadline for companies to comply with their regulations runs out in 2021, it will probably take more than two centuries to close the global pay gap, the researchers calculated.

Read more:

Iceland to employers who say they pay women equally: Try it

The highest paid male employee of the BBC earns $ 2.8 million. The best paid woman earns $ 580,000.

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