As of yesterday, equal pay is the law of the land in Iceland. The Nordic country is the first in the world to make it illegal to pay a woman less than a man. Businesses with 25 or more people will have to obtain government certification of their equal-pay policies and will face a fine if they do not comply or reach pay parity. (For comparison, while the United States doesn’t have a federal law requiring pay equity, there are varying degrees of protection at the state level — the American Association of University Women reports that only two states have no equal-pay protection laws, but that only eight have strong ones.)
It’s not super surprising that Iceland is the first to take this step: For the past nine years, they’ve been ranked by the World Economic Forum as the most gender-equal country. Nearly 50 percent of their parliament is made up of women, and the new equal-pay law, which was introduced in March 2017, faced little opposition. (Funny how that works.) “We need to make sure that men and women enjoy equal opportunity in the workplace,” said Equality and Social Affairs Minister Thorsteinn Viglundsson when the law was announced. “It is our responsibility to take every measure to achieve that.”
In 2015, the pay gap was around 20 percent in Iceland, according to the government. (The figure in the U.S. was also found to be 20 percent that year.) As the New York Times reported in March, Iceland’s goal is to bridge their gap by 2022.