Iceland is credited for being the first country in the world to legalize abortion and the first to elect a woman as head of state in a national election. Now the progressive island nation in northern Europe will also be the first to ensure that all employees receive equal pay for equal work from employers.
On Wednesday—fittingly, International Women’s Day—Iceland’s government announced it would soon introduce legislation requiring that employers with at least 25 workers obtain a certificate proving they offer equal pay regardless of the gender, ethnicity, sexuality, or nationality, the Associated Press reported.
The (UK) Independent noted that Minnesota and countries such as Switzerland have similar programs pushing for equal pay, but Iceland is thought to be the first to make the requirements mandatory, for public and private firms alike.
World Economic Forum already ranks Iceland #1 in the world in terms of gender equality due to factors such as fathers receiving 90 days paid paternity leave. (The United States is ranked #45 globally.) Still, Icelandic women reportedly earn an average of 14% to 18% less than their male counterparts, and the equal pay initiative has wide support throughout the country.
“Equal rights are human rights,” Social Affairs and Equality Minister Thorsteinn Viglundsson said, according to the AP. “We need to make sure that men and women enjoy equal opportunity in the workplace. It is our responsibility to take every measure to achieve that.”
Once the legislation is introduced, it is expected to pass easily into law and take effect by 2020. Iceland officials say the pay gap could be eliminated entirely as soon as 2022.