Iceland officially passed a gender pay-equity law on 1 January, following a proposal given on International Women’s Day last year. What this means for the first country to legalise equal pay is that companies and government agencies are now liable to a fine if they fail to adhere to the new policy, Al Jazeera reported.

Al Jazeera further stated that the law was voted in by Iceland’s centre-right government (including the opposition) in a parliament where approximately 50% of the members are women.

It’s perhaps unsurprising that this ground-breaking move should be made by the same country that was deemed by the World Economic Forum to have the smallest gender pay gap for nine years running. Economic opportunity, political empowerment, health and survival are all considered in the process of determining which country has the most gender equity; the countries ranked top five by the WEF report also include Sweden, Norway, Finland and Rwanda.

Not only has the Icelandic government made it illegal for men and women to receive unequal pay at work, but they are also ensuring that the law remains fixed by working towards eliminating gender pay discrimination by the year 2022.

Icelandic Women’s Rights Association board member Dagny Osk Aradottir Pind told Al Jazeera that ‘the legislation is basically a mechanism that companies and organisations [should use to ensure that] they are paying men and women equally.’

She further added, ‘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 realise that the legislation we have had in place is not working, and we need to do something more.’

However, Iceland’s European neighbours seem to not share the same sentiments, given the fact that countries such as Austria, Switzerland and the UK do not have gender pay equity at the top of their priorities list. South Africa is ahead of the UK and the US in terms of the gender pay gap. Our country is ranked number 15 out of 144, according to 2017’s Global Gender Gap report, placing us ahead of the two world powers. South Africa is one of the 60 countries that decreased overall gender equity disparities in 2017.