Iceland becomes the first country to legalise equal pay, high time we take note

Here is what India can learn from countries like Sweden, Finland, Rwanda and Norway in order to bridge the gender wage gap

Iceland recently became the first country to make equal pay mandatory for both men and women in order to bridge the gender pay gap. Under the legislation, companies and government agencies employing at least 25 people must prove that they pay men and women equally and thereafter, obtain government certification.

While Iceland’s step has garnered praise from all corners of the world, in India, the gender pay gap has worsened over the years.

Gender pay gap in India is downright dismal
According to the Global Gender Gap 2017 report published at the World Economic Forum, India slipped 21 places — from 87 to 108 — on the Global Gender Gap Index over the span of a year. According to the report, on an average, 66 percent of the female workforce in India is either unpaid or underpaid as compared to 12% of men. Though India’s rank was ahead of neighbouring Sri Lanka and Pakistan, it is way behind Bangladesh which ranked at 47.

ALSO READ: Judge dismisses Google’s pay discrimination lawsuit; here’s what you should know

On the other hand, the WEF has consistently ranked Iceland at the top of the index for the last nine years based on criteria of economics, education, health and politics. Other countries in the top five are Norway, Finland, Sweden as well as Rwanda.

equal gender pay

India’s Equal Remuneration Act 1976 seems of no use:
Though India passed the Equal Remuneration Act to curb the gender pay gap back in 1976, the law has little to no effect on the ground. The act bars employers from giving women less favourable remuneration as compared to men for the same work.

However, according to the Monster Salary Index on gender, 2016, the median gross hourly salary for men was Rs 345.8 whereas was it was Rs 259.8 for women, pointing to a gender pay gap of 25%.


ALSO READ: Taapsee Pannu addresses the issue of pay disparity and it is not what you would’ve expected

Here’s what India should learn:
Most Indian families follow a traditional patriarchal structure in which men are expected to be breadwinners while women do the household chores. Here is what India can learn from other countries:

  • In Norway, NGOs, researchers and the State have formed a number of fruitful alliances in order to support gender pay gap. Norway has often supported transnational NGOs in developing gender policies.
  • Since 1995, women were permitted to volunteer in the military in Finland. Another measure to plug the wage gap is by offering relaxed loans to female entrepreneurs.

ALSO READ: While we were debating the merits of Padmavat(i), Iceland made gender pay parity legal

  • Despite being one of the poorest African countries, Rwanda has one of the highest rates of female labour force participation in the world. By providing women three months of paid maternity leaves, Rwanda makes it easier for women to stay in the labour force market. The pro-women laws also allow greater participation of women in politics.
  • Sweden has a feminist foreign policy, with its budget analysed by the Swedish Women’s Lobby each year to see whether the government is living up to its promises on gender equality.