Peeps still aren’t understanding Iceland’s equal pay law

On the face of it, Iceland is a good place to be a woman. For nearly a decade, it has been rated the world’s most gender-equal country. It was the first to directly elect a female president, nearly half its MPs and company directors are women, and first-class daycare and parental leave help ensure almost four in five women have jobs.

So it came as a shock for Fríða Rós Valdimarsdóttir to learn, when she was managing a key team of 10 home carers at Reykjavik council a few years ago, that male colleagues in other departments, with far fewer responsibilities than her, were being paid a great deal more.

“It has been illegal for decades, for jobs that are worth the same, to pay people differently because of gender, but still it happens – it’s simply been allowed,” says Valdimarsdóttir, who is now the chair of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association, in her bright offices in the country’s capital.

Despite an equal pay act that dates back to 1961, Icelandic women still earn, on average, between 14% and 20% less than men. So Valdimarsdóttir and her association were one of many campaign groups to back a plan that finally resulted, last month, in the island becoming the first country in the world to legally enforce equal pay.

They’re not enforcing equal pay. They’re enforcing equal pay for the same – or very similar, to be fair – job.

It is still true that different life choices, different commitments to career, different deployments of talent, will lead to different pay outcomes.

Within four years from January 2018, any public or private body in Iceland employing more than 25 people that has not been independently certified as paying equal wages for work of equal value will face daily fines.

Be fun to see the lawyers arguing as follows.

“My client pays different amounts because they regard the work as being of different value. The proof that the work is of different value is that it is paid differently. QED.”

At which point, my prediction. The country will still have a gender pay gap even after this is all bedded in. And people will still complain.

11 comments on “Peeps still aren’t understanding Iceland’s equal pay law

  1. They want full time wages for part time work.

    Some form of punishment needs to put into play against these femmi-liars.

  2. Did you catch the recent Freakonomics podcast on why female Uber drivers get paid the same but earn 7% less? Answer: men drive faster, pick more lucrative locations (e.g. airports) and stick at it longer to learn how to optimize.
    Pay and Earnings. The difference matters.

  3. I can see a productivity drop in the next few years as the blokes say to themselves “what’s the point?” and just do whatever amount of effort is required to meet the ‘equal pay’ threshold.

  4. Iceland is a crap place to be a human. It’s cold, isolated, dark. It’s also expensive and depressing with few business and other opportunities and very little interesting to do.

    Women are a subset of humans. It is therefore a crap place also to be a woman in.

  5. It’s the same argument being used in the action against Tesco due to the salary discrepancy between shop staff and warehouse staff: that the value of work is effectively the same therefore there shouldn’t be any discrepancy.

    But this is so fundamentally illiterate I can’t credit that any reasonable person signs up to it.

    Pay discrepancies between broadly similar jobs is primarily due to supply and demand in the jobs market, and not to any form of discrimination. If there are more Java programmers than C# programmers but demand is roughly the same then the C# bods will get paid more. This is a good thing as it incentivises potential employees to train in those technologies and skills where there is demand.

    Messing with this will create lots of nasty unintended consequences.

  6. And perhaps even a few more companies not bothering to expand beyond 25 employees? Yet another example of pointless regulation destroying value.

  7. The lede is buried here: “any…body in Iceland employing more than 25 people that has not been independently certified…will face daily fines.” Be an employer, you are guilty until certified innocent. There is one certifier, he thinks any programmer is as good as any other programmer, and he knows to whom you make political contributions.

    PF – We still have that here, as companies are finding ways to distribute their tax cut while still staying at 49½ employees to avoid having to bundle third-party payment for gender identity counseling with every job, under Obama-care that Trump thinks he repealed.

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