Conference on Equal Pay and Gender Equality in the Labour Market
13th November 2014
Opening remarks by Eygló Harðardóttir,
Minister of Social Affairs and Housing and Minster for Nordic Cooperation Iceland
It is an honour to welcome all of you to this Conference on Equal Pay and Gender Equality in the Nordic Region. The conference is hold in a cooperation of the Icelandic Presidency in the Nordic Council of Ministers, The Nordic Network on Euqal Pay and Equality in the Labour Market and the Icelandic Action Group on Equal Pay.
The year 2014 marks the celebration of 40 years of Nordic cooperation in the field of gender equality. We have used the occasion to record the main achievements so far along the road towards greater equality between women and men – and we have drawn our attention to projects aimed at achieving further equality in areas where there is still an imbalance in favour of either sex.
It is, for example, of great concern that we have not reached our aims on equal pay for equal work and that women still have a limited share of executive management positions in the economic sector. Moreover we are concerned about the fact that the labour market still is highly gender segregated and that access to full employment is unevenly divided between men and women. These are challenges that we need to tackle with clear policies and structural changes of our gendered societies. Not simply because gender equality is the basis of democracy and human rights, but also because we ought to make the best possible investment in our human resources meaning both our men and our women.
In the Nordic Countries the revolution in women's levels of education and the high level of female participation in the labour market have been the basis of welfare and economic prosperity. In 1975, the UN's International Women's year, more than 25 thousand Icelandic Women took a day off to emphasize the importance of women's contribution to the Icelandic economy, both in paid and unpaid work. Now almost 80% of Icelandic women are active in the labour force and their contribution has been decisive in ensuring economic growth and development in our country. Therefore we should use every opportunity to emphasise the crucial importance of prioritising gender equality and women´s empowerment in all labour market policies.
Allow me to mention a Nordic example from Iceland which is the Action Group on Equal Pay consisting of representatives appointed on a ministerial level and by the organisations of the social partners. Their task is to coordinate wage studies, to implement an action plan on desegregation of the labour market and to draw up a schedule for the introduction of a new wage equality standard. The action plan on desegregation is based on research which shows that the gender pay gap is first and foremost reinforced by gender segregation in the labour market.
In preparing this work we have asked ourselves demanding questions about how we can change the underlying structures that produce and reproduce gendered stereotypes. For example, how can we better encourage young girls to choose education based on mathematics and engineering or young boys to be more open towards becoming a teacher or a nurse? Measures for implementing structural changes that can have an impact on educational choices of young people are highly relevant.
The Equal Pay Standard will allow companies and institutions to have their wage issues and wage systems certified for not involving gender based discrimination.
On November 1, 2013, The Ministry of Finance and Economical Affairs and the Ministry of Welfare launched the pilot project for the implementation of Equal Pay Standard IST 85:2012. 11 governmental agencies, 2 large municipalities (including the city of Reykjavik) and 8 private companies are taking part in this project. Two specialists from the Ministry of Finance and Economical Affairs have lead the pilot project.
The members of the project have meat regularly to share their workplace experiences, discuss best-practices, and troubleshoot issues that have arisen during implementation.
During lunch today, we will sign a collaboration agreement between the education centers of the Icelandic authorities, the Confederation of Icelandic employers, and the Icelandic Confederation of labour. This will ensure that the know-how created during the pilot project will be kept in one place. We have created a toolbox and workshops will be held for those who want to implement the Equal Pay Standard in the future. The participants have expressed that they should be rewarded for implementing the Equal Pay Standard and obtain a logo once they have been certified. Therefore, we held a competition for logo design. The final results of that competition have been on display here at the entry hall and during lunch today we will announce the winner.
All of the participants comprehend the commitment required to implement the Equal Pay Standard. It requires the full support of top management. Employees must understand the effort and the reasoning behind it. However, companies that implement the Equal Pay Standard will be rewarded by a more transparent and just remuneration system.
We are hopeful that the first government agencies will pass an audit in the spring of 2015.
In the Nordic Council of Ministers we have shared best practices on gender equality for four decades now – and we share the experience regarding its dynamics: Gender equality does not come about of its own accord. Neither does knowledge and be assured that your academic initiatives, hard work and active participation in the effort to create and strengthen knowledge for the Nordic region and beyond are highly appreciated.
I wish all of you every success in your endeavors and fruitful discussions during this important conference.