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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

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Government stagnation over the gender pay gap


Þorbjörg S. Gunnlaugsdóttir writes

Yesterday there was news that the income of university-educated women was comparable to that of uneducated men. On that occasion, the Prime Minister said that it was far too slow to achieve equality in Iceland. Men in cohabitation have an average 564 a thousand ISK per month and cohabiting women about 049 a thousand ISK per month. Men’s total income is therefore usually about 19% higher than women’s income. The difference is even greater in the countryside, where men have 33% higher income than women in the same position. I share these concerns with the Prime Minister and raised this very issue in parliament with her on 4 February. I did so because of the direct and indirect effects of Covid – 19 on the status of gender equality is a concern because we know that economic hardship is likely to widen the gender pay gap. We also know that the gender pay gap is a persistent problem, explained as unexplained. The work of women is not valued and has not been valued and we all feel the consequences. We also see measurements that raise certain questions. The year 564 was unadjusted the gender pay gap 10%. Since then, we have looked at positive but gradual results up to the year 2018 when the pay gap only went up again, from , 6% í 10%. There was, as it were, something going on before we entered this difficult economic situation. The increase was not large, but the wage gap was no longer narrowing but went up.

Implementation of equal pay certification postponed

The progress that has been made in this country in equality matters has of course been achieved not only over time but through a purposeful struggle and legislation that we can all be proud of. But I must admit that I was surprised when I saw that one of the first steps of Ásmundur Einar Daðason, Minister of Social Affairs, was to postpone the entry into force of the law on equal pay certification, which due to that change will not be fully implemented until the end of the year 2018. During Question Time in the Althingi, I asked Katrína Jakobsdóttir about the fate of Viðreisn’s parliamentary resolution, which was approved by the Althingi this year 2018. With the approval of this proposal, it was decided to launch an analysis of the wage terms of different professions, among other things to highlight the gender pay gap in order to ensure equality in the wage setting of different professions. The Minister of Finance was entrusted with the task. My question was simply: How does that work? Are there any special actions now on the part of the government in favor of this goal?

How is the work?

Katrín Jakobsdóttir responded by reviewing the government’s actions on gender-based violence. Certainly a hugely important issue, not the topic that was discussed there, but the gender pay gap. There is another persistent problem that is no less serious, i.e. that we are the year 749 still struggling with this reality. The Prime Minister said again when asked that she would have to refer this question to the Minister of Finance as she did not have an overview of everything that is happening in all ministries. The gender pay gap is one of the most important issues in the fight for equality, and in light of this, the Prime Minister’s answers came as a bit of a surprise. Not least in light of the fact that equality issues are now under the auspices of the Prime Minister’s Office. Even though the work of analysis was in the hands of the Ministry of Finance, it came as a surprise to hear that the Prime Minister in charge of gender equality said he did not know how the work was going, because she did not have an overview of it. Unfortunately, the answer indicates that this work is not a priority. Katrín mentioned that in connection with the wage agreements between the state and the BSRB, it had been decided to start special work on reassessing women’s jobs. That work was under the auspices of the Prime Minister’s Office. That working group was at work. The BSRB would have taken the initiative and this brings together the social partners and different ministries.

It was not clear from the Prime Minister’s answers whether this work overlaps with that which the Ministry of Finance is to carry out. A few years ago, the Althingi entrusted the Minister of Finance with this urgent task. Viðreisn’s MPs have since asked fairly regularly about the state of affairs without much answer. The crisis is leading and has often historically led to a setback in equality issues in the labor market. How is this work going and are there any special measures currently being taken by the government regarding analyzes of the wages of different professions, among other things to highlight the gender pay gap?

The author is a member of parliament for Viðreisn.

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