Iceland just became the first country to make the gender pay gap illegal

Emma Haslett
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Companies will be forced to pay fines if they cannot prove equal pay (Source: Getty)

Iceland has become the first country in the world to make it illegal to pay men more than women, after new rules came into effect this week.

The country passed a bill last year which requires firms employing 24 people or more to prove they offer equal pay to their employees. Those who cannot prove it will be forced to pay fines.

Iceland has consistently been ranked one of the world's top countries for gender equality. Last year it came top of the Global Gender Gap Index, published by the World Economic Forum (WEF), for the ninth consecutive year, scoring highly for political empowerment and economic participation.

The country has vowed to close the gender pay gap entirely by 2022, although in March the WEF said women in the country still earn between 14 and 18 per cent less than men.

However, globally the gap is much wider, with women earning an average of $12,000 (£8,840) in 2017, compared with $21,000 for men, the figures showed.

"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," Dagny Osk Aradottir Pind, a board member of the Icelandic Women's Rights Association, told Al Jazeera.

"We have had legislation saying that pay should be equal for men and women for decades now but we still have a pay gap."

The UK was ranked 15th overall in last year's gender gap index, scoring highly for political empowerment and educational attainment, although it was ranked 100th out of 144 countries for health and survival.

Read more: Firms that fail to publish gender pay gap face unlimited fines

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