Iceland’s premier goes on strike over gender pay gap
Iceland’s prime minister has joined tens of thousands of women on strike to protest the gender pay gap.
On Tuesday, Katrín Jakobsdóttir said she would be taking part in the “kvennafrí“, or women’s day off, and didn’t expect the other women in her cabinet to work either.
Ms Jakobsdóttir said she would also not be holding a cabinet meeting on the first full-day women’s strike since 1975, The Telegraph reported.
“Un Alþingi [Iceland’s parliament] only male ministers will answer impromptu questions. We show solidarity in this way,” she said.
All women and non-binary people were urged to refuse paid and unpaid work, including housework.
Iceland has been ranked the best country in the world for gender equality by the World Economic Forum for the past 14 years in a row.
However, women in some jobs still earn at least 20 per cent less than male colleagues, according to Statistics Iceland.
A University of Iceland study found that 40 per cent of Icelandic women also suffered gender-based and sexual violence in their lifetime.
Ms Jakobsdóttir’s government is scrutinising how female-dominated professions are valued, in comparison to traditionally male fields.
Healthcare, education, and other sectors where women make up most of the workforce will be hardest hit by the strike.
Women make up 94 per cent of nursery teachers and most of the teachers at all levels of the education system in Iceland.
About 80 per cent of employees at the National University Hospital of Iceland, the biggest in the country, are women.
‘Urgent need for action’
“We’re seeking to bring attention to the fact that we’re called an equality paradise, but there are still gender disparities and an urgent need for action,” said Freyja Steingrímsdóttir of the Icelandic Federation for Public Workers.
“Female-led professions such as healthcare services and childcare are still undervalued and much lower paid.”
In 1975, about 90 per cent of female workers in Iceland went on strike to draw attention to their value to the economy.
The Icelandic parliament passed an equal pay law the next year.
In 1980, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir became the president of Iceland and the first woman in the world to be democratically elected as a head of state.
She credited the 1975 strike for paving the way for her to break that glass ceiling.
Similar women’s strikes were held in 1985, 2005, 2010, 2016 and 2018.