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11.03.2024 10:24 Félags- og vinnumarkaðsráðuneytið

Ávarp félags- og vinnumarkaðsráðherra á 68. þingi kvennanefndar Sameinuðu þjóðanna

Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, félags- og vinnumarkaðsráðherra, fyrir hönd íslenskra stjórnvalda:

Honourable chair, distinguished guests,

Our thoughts today are with all the people, including women and children, experiencing conflict in too many places around the planet, including Gaza, Afghanistan, Sudan and Ukraine.

Equal rights for all women and girls are a basic human right. But advancing gender equality is not only the right thing to do – it is also smart economics. 

Poverty and gender equality are inextricably linked. Iceland developed from being among the poorest countries of Europe into one of the most prosperous ones today, partly by putting in policies supporting women and gender equality. 

Gender equality should not be a luxury we can afford, it makes economic sense. As an example, research shows that increase in women’s employment in the Nordic countries has accounted for 10-20% of GDP per capita growth in the last 40-50 years.

Gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls all over the world are therefore a key to addressing global poverty.

In recent years, we have witnessed a concerning global backlash against gender equality and women’s sexual and reproductive rights. We must reverse and fight these trends and work together to secure the human rights of women and girls and non-binary persons all over the world. The right to bodily integrity, autonomy, and sexual and reproductive health are at the core of gender equality and significantly impact the economic well-being of women and girls in all their diversity, including persons with disabilities. 

Another critical aspect of securing economic freedom for women lies in creating a gender-equal labour market. Women-dominated professions have systematically been undervalued and underpaid. Women are more likely to work part-time or in the informal economy. They are also more likely to leave the labour force earlier than men, because of unequal distributions of unpaid care and domestic work. These structures negatively affect women’s health, income, career development and future pensions. 

In Iceland, we have implemented several measures to address these persistent challenges, such as universal childcare and shared parental leave. A significant milestone was reached in 2018 when we became the first country to require employers to obtain equal pay certification. 

However, we still have a way to go, largely due to the gender segregation in the labour market. Why are sectors that happen to be women-dominated, such as health care and education, not valued as highly economically as others? This is unfair and unjust. 

To address this undervaluation of women-dominated fields, we must shift our focus from merely equal pay to pay equity, comparing not only the same or similar jobs but different jobs of equal value in terms of education, skill, responsibility, and effort.

Distinguished guests,

In 2009, Iceland implemented gender budgeting which has been an instrumental tool in advancing gender equality in Iceland. National budgets say a lot about a country’s priorities and values. Because of the different situations of women and men, girls and boys and non-binary individuals in society, the allocation of public funds can have a different impact on these groups even if it appears to be gender neutral. This can help governments to implement policies and make budget decisions that promote gender equality and at the same time contribute to economic prosperity. 

Dear colleagues,

Gender equality has been and continues to be a core priority for the government of Iceland, both at home and in international cooperation, including our candidature to become a member of the Human Rights Council 2025-2027. We firmly believe that progressive policies aimed at advancing gender equality are the foundation for an inclusive, socially just, and peaceful society where everyone can prosper.

Thank you. 


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