Women in Iceland are protesting the country’s 14 per cent gender pay gap by leaving work 14 per cent early.
Although many experts on the subject consider Iceland to be the ‘world leader’ in gender equality, the gender pay gap does still exist in the region despite it being smaller than of its neighbouring countries. Statistics on the World Economic Forum place Iceland at the top of the worlds gender pay rankings, followed closely by Norway and Finland, with the UK coming in at 18th.
Women employees make 14 to 18 percent less than men in Iceland — a disparity that unions and women’s organisations have worked out means women are essentially working for free after 2:38 pm.
In protest of the pay gap, thousands of Icelandic women decided to work the hours their pay merited by leaving their workplaces promptly at 2:38pm.
The largest protest took part in the country’s capital, Reykjavik, although similar but smaller protests are said to have taken place throughout the country.
This is not the first time a protest on gender pay has taken place on the Nordic island.
In October 1975, Icelandic women were fed up. Tired of being poorly paid for their labour and their lack of political representation, the women took action against the backdrop of the global feminist movement. 90 per cent of Iceland’s women went on strike and only nine women had ever won seats in parliament.
The country saw a surge in ‘women’s power’, when only five years later, Vigdis Finnbogadottir was chosen as the first democratically elected women president and shortly after her election, more than a third of the country’s MP’s were women.
In 2000, Iceland’s government passed a historical parental leave legislation that many credit with helping women to return to work, and their former hours, more quickly after childbirth. Today, 90 percent of Icelandic fathers take parental leave.
However, should the gap continue to shrink at the current rate, it would take 52 years before men and women are paid equally. Both women and Icelandic leadership alike agree that the progress is too slow.
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s a gender pay gap or any other pay gap,” said Gylfi Arnbjörnsson, president of the Icelandic Confederation of Labor. “It’s just unacceptable to say we’ll correct this in 50 years. That’s a lifetime.”
Will Iceland be the first country to close the gender pay gap? Let’s see what the future holds.
Rebecca joined the HRreview editorial team in January 2016. After graduating from the University of Sheffield Hallam in 2013 with a BA in English Literature, Rebecca has spent five years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past she has been part of the editorial teams at Sleeper and Dezeen and has founded her own arts collective.