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Equal pay without equal pay

The Icelandic Parliament had to close this week when the women went home. The woman rebellion is back.



At 14.08 now on Monday the Icelandic women went home.

Then they would have worked for their wages – if they had been men. Iceland stopped. Parliament, banks, insurance companies, hotels, – yes the whole society stopped for a few hours, when the Icelandic women went on strike to protest against the great wage inequalities between women and men.

30 years after the first "women's day off", the Icelandic women again marked that they are not happy with being paid less, just because they are women.

In central Reykjavik, around 50.000 protesters gathered – both women and men. The demonstration is described as the largest in Iceland's history. Among those who went on strike was the president of the Nordic Council, Rannveig Guðmundsdóttir. The almost 1000 participants at the Nordic Council meeting in Reykjavik were also affected by the strike.

Iceland has gained a reputation for having many talented women who have put the women's issue on the agenda. Politically, Icelanders have had their own women's party, have had a female president and the capital has also been led by women. Icelandic women are more often seen in leading positions than what we experience in other countries.

But despite a solid job of getting women out of work and into positions in society, the Icelandic women are not paid for the effort. The Icelandic men are good at securing good wages and their sex, while the women are paid significantly less than their male counterparts.

But again the women come together in Iceland and hit their fists in the table. It will be exciting to see if the well-paid leaders react to this. Or if they want to continue to secure their own in the men's club good pay at the expense of everyone else.

Economic independence is a prerequisite for real equality between women and men. The opportunity to earn our own money, and the opportunity to be able to use the financial resources, helps to determine our opportunities to participate in society – whether in public or private contexts.

Icelandic women earn an average of 64 per cent of men's income. In a debate on Icelandic television after the demonstration, it was emphasized, among other things, that the big difference proves that it does not help to imagine that one gets the same salary as men. Women need to be much tougher when demanding pay.

The issue is certainly not specific to Iceland. In Norway, we have had equal pay on the political agenda since 1959, but we have still not achieved equal pay for work of equal value.

According to the Gender Equality Center, women's monthly wages amounted to just under 84 per cent of men's wages in Norway in 2002. The differences can partly be explained by women's part-time work. 44 percent of all working women work part-time. In addition, Norway has a gender-segregated labor market, where women are in the majority among those who work in the public sector and men are in the majority among those who work in the private sector.

The fight for equality will continue for many years. In the Nordic countries, we like to claim that we have gender equality. There is equality in a number of areas, but unfortunately there are separate enclaves in society that cannot be influenced by this debate. In politics, men still manage to use pointed elbows at the expense of women. Norway has recently said goodbye to a male prime minister who became prime minister at the expense of his female party leader. In the new Stoltenberg government, they have major problems in achieving an equal government cabal.

In the Nordic countries, women in several areas have been the losers every year since the year of women in 1975. It is true that there has been a female prime minister in Norway, Gro Harlem Brundtland, and a female lawyer in the Faroe Islands, Marita Petersen. But these are the only women who have reached the top of their countries' political systems. The other countries have not had female prime ministers. Finland and Iceland have each had their own female president. The historic demonstration of women in Iceland this week shows that the struggle for real equality has hardly begun.

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