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Women in Iceland stage a walkout to protest wage inequality

Iceland News
Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir was one of the women who walked out of work on Wednesday to protest a longstanding wage gap. (Wikimedia Commons)

Women across Iceland, including Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir, left their workplaces at 2:55 p.m. on Wednesday to protest a longstanding wage gap, according to the Reykjavik-based outlet Grapevine.The time of day was chosen based on the fact that women are paid 26 percent less than their male counterparts—meaning they are compensated for only the first five hours and 55 minutes of each eight-hour workday.

In a statement released to the press, strike leaders linked wage inequality to the broader gender justice issues that exist in the workplace. “In recent months, stories of harassment, violence and injustice women suffer in the workplace have been shared on social media under the hashtag #MeToo,” said organizers. “These stories have made it clear that our fight for gender equality in the workplace cannot only be about equal pay, but must also be about safety in the workplace.”

Women in Iceland have long struggled to secure wage equality in the workplace. At the first Women’s Day Off, in October 1975, 90 percent of women opted to stay home from the office and to abstain from engaging in childcare and housework. “What happened that day was the first step for women’s emancipation in Iceland,” one woman told BBC. “It completely paralyzed the country and opened the eyes of many men.” Similar protests occurred in 1985, 2005, 2010, 2016 and soon, 2018.

Iceland is hardly the only country where women receive unequal payment for the same work as men. In fact, the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Gender Gap Report, which evaluates “progress towards gender parity” on a range of different indicators, ranks Iceland fifth in its list of the top 10 countries working towards wage equality. Other countries on the list include Rwanda (1), the United Arab Emirates (2), Albania (3) and Singapore (4). This ranking is calculated based on surveys sent out to men and women, in which they’re asked about the extent to which women receive equal pay for similar work.

Iceland was evaluated as having the smallest overall gender gap of any country, followed by Norway and Finland; Syria, Pakistan, and Yemen fall at the very bottom of the list. The United States was ranked 49th overall, and 27thin terms of wage equality. The gender pay gap does not just vary across countries—within the United States, at least, it also varies by state. The pay gap is smallest in California and largest in Utah, according to research conducted by the American Association of University Women

In the United States, women of color face the greatest wage gap. Black women in the United States earn only 61 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, according to the National Women’s Law Center, while Latina women make only 53 cents and Native women 58 cents.

Despite some progress the gender pay gap isn’t closing fast enough, say organizers in Iceland, and across the world. “We have gained only 47 minutes in 13 years,” states the website for Wednesday’s protest. “If progress continues at the same pace, we will need to wait another 29 years before women in Iceland have the same wages on average as men, in the year 2047!”

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