Already a recognised by the World Economic Forum (WEF) as the World leader for gender equality for nine consecutive years, Iceland’s new law will apply to all organisations employing 25 or more people.
Iceland has been working to close the gender pay gap for a number of years, and on International Women’s Day in March 2017, then prime minister, Bjarni Benediktsson, announced the proposed legislation.
The move has been welcomed by global leaders, with many commentators noting that the new equal pay law is an inevitable result of Iceland achieving almost 50% female representation in Parliament in 2016, and electing Katrin Jakobsdottir as Prime Minister in November 2017. Miss Jakobsdottir is Iceland’s second female prime minister, and active environmentalist and feminist.
Nordic countries lead the way with gender parity, with Norway, Finland and Sweden joining Iceland to be ranked by WEF as four out of the top 5 performing countries, based on as economic opportunity, educational attainment, political empowerment, and health and survival. New Zealand ranks respectably in 9th place, and Australia lags in 35th place, behind a number of developing countries.
It’s not just equal pay where Nordic countries are leading the way. Sweden is known for it’s generous and uniquely structured state parental-leave policy, which allocates 480 days of paid parental leave for each couple welcoming a new child, with 90 of those days being allocated to the Dad on a use-it-or-lose-it basis.
Designed to encourage more men to take on a primary or shared care role in raising the family, the policy is credited with transforming national attitudes to gender and childcare, with men in Sweden now taking 25% of allocated parental leave benefit, compared to 0.5% in the 1970’s.
Sweden’s commitment to parental leave has made it an international leader when it comes to workplace gender equality, however more men still need to take the opportunity offered by the policy, to adopt an equal role in raising their children.
We were lucky enough to be invited to the opening of Swedish Photographer Johan Bavman’s celebrated Swedish Dads exhibition, which visited Sydney recently.
Bavman through his photography, documented the journeys of that fathers who had chosen to stay at home to raise their children, with the intention of persuading more dads to do the same, he writes;
“There are two aims to this project. The first is to describe the background to Sweden’s unique parental allowance. The second is to inspire other fathers – in Sweden, and further afield – to consider the positive benefits of such a system.”
Other countries that offer generous, non-transferable paid paternal leave include Portugal, Belgium, Iceland and France. Is it time to rug-up, grab the thermals and head North?
What are your thoughts on Iceland and Sweden’s policies supporting gender equality, and why is it Australia particularly is lagging so far behind?