In Iceland, it’s now illegal for men to be paid more than women

In Iceland, it’s no longer enough to say you’ll offer equal pay — you’ll need to prove it.

As part of its ambitious goal to completely end the gender wage gap within the next five years, Iceland has made it illegal for men to be paid more than women, reportedly becoming the first country in the world to make public and private employers prove they offer equal pay to men and women for equal work. The new law, which was announced on International Women’s Day in March, went into effect on January 1st.

Under the law, companies employing 25 people or more will undergo audits and must get a certification from the Icelandic government that proves their compliance with equal-pay policies, or else they will be fined.

Iceland: Where closing the gender wage gap is now legally enforced

Iceland, which has a population of fewer than a million people, is already at the forefront of the movement toward workplace gender equality. The World Economic Forum named Iceland the most gender-equal country in the world for the ninth year in a row, noting that it has closed more than 70% of its gender gap in political empowerment. The annual gender progress report, which examines the gender gap in four areas — economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment — noted that since it first was released in 2006, “Iceland has closed approximately 10% of its total gender gap, making it one of the fastest-improving countries in the world.” But even though they have made rapid progress, government officials and advocates see legalization of their standards as a necessary step to ensure enforcement.

“We want to break down the last of the gender barriers in the workplace,” Thorsteinn Viglundsson, Iceland’s social affairs and equality minister, told the Times when the law was first announced. “History has shown that if you want progress, you need to enforce it.”

Dagny Osk Aradottir Pind, a board member of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association, told Al Jazeera, that enforcement is needed to move the issue beyond awareness: “Women have been talking about this for decades and I really feel that we have managed to raise awareness, and we have managed to get to the point that people realize that the legislation we have had in place is not working, and we need to do something more,” she said.