Gender Equality in Iceland
Flag of Iceland
|Population (in Mil.)||0.32|
|Gross Domestic Product (In USD Billions - WB)||14.03|
|Sex Ratio (m/f)||1|
|Life Expectancy Ratio (f/m)||1.041|
|Income Ratio (f/m)||0.62|
|Literacy Ratio (f/m)||1|
|Tertiary Enrolment Ratio (f/m)||1.78|
|Women in Parliament (in %)||33.3|
|Human Development Index||14/169|
|Social Institutions and Gender Index||- /86|
|Gender Inequality Index||13/138|
|Gender Equity Index||8/157|
|Women’s Economic Opportunity Index||6/113|
|Global Gender Gap Index||1/134|
|More information on variables|
Fostered by a high level of human development (Iceland topped the United Nations’ Human Development Index in 2007), gender equality is very advanced in Iceland compared to most countries in the world. The country placed fourth in the 2007 Global Gender Gap Index, published by the World Economic Forum. This index measures how well countries divide their resources and opportunities between women and men, looking at economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, political empowerment as well as health and survival. Advances in gender equality have not happened by chance. Iceland supports gender equality through central, regional and national bureaus that oversee the implementation of laws.
After the crash, Iceland's women lead the economic and political rescue:
The financial and economic crisis led to the downfall of the government and the prime minister's residence is now occupied by Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir, social democrat and an elegant 66-year-old lesbian who is the world's first openly gay premier.
Quick Facts about Iceland
- Topped Human Development Index (2007)
- Ranked 4th on Global Gender Gap Index
- Highest rate of women’s participation in the labor market in the OECD (76%)
- Fertility rate among the highest in Europe
- 2.1 children per mother (2007) - the average in Europe is 1.5 per mother
Iceland took over the top spot in the Human Development Index from Norway, which held the number one ranking for the previous six years. Indeed, all the Nordic countries are currently in the top 15. The index, which is published by the United Nations Development Programme, measures life expectancy, education, literacy, and gross domestic product.
National ParliamentThe Women’s Alliance ran in three voting districts in 1983 and tripled women’s participation in Parliament, from one to three. Women occupied one fourth of all parliamentary seats in 1995, and in 1999 they were 35% of all MPs. In 2003, female MPs were 30% of Parliament.
Local LevelLocal authorities: 79 Local authorities in Iceland, after the elections 2006. The Gender ratio between elected representatives is 35,9% women and 64,1% men.
Paternity Leave used to be only two weeks paid leave in 1997. In 2003, that had become a three months paid leave. Today, fathers have an independent right to three months leave, mothers have three months and three months can be shared between the two. That brings the total leave to nine months. And plans are afoot to make the total parental leave twelve months. It is most likely that it will be a 4+4+4 system. Despite being an expensive system, politicians and those representing the labour market agree that it is worth every penny.
Over the past couple of years, men have increasingly used the possibility to take parental leave. Below are men's application rates for parental leave relative to to women’s applications.
- 2001 82,4%
- 2002 83,6%
- 2003 86,6%
- 2004 89,8%
- 2007 90,0% (approx.)
Steady progress is being made towards full wage equality. In recent years the wage gap has been closing and it is hoped that soon this gap will have been closed for good.
Closing the Pay Gap
- 2001 82,4%
- 2002 83,6%
- 2003 86,6%
- 2004 89,8%
- 2007 90,0% (approx.)
Iceland’s government designed an action plan on how to combat violence in close relationships. The same action plan also deals with human trafficking and how to deal with such cases.
- An action plan against gender based violence was adopted in 2007. It is now being implemented.
- A big research is under preparation on violence in close relationships.
- An action plan to implement Security Council Resolution 1325 has been adopted.
- An action plan against trafficking will be presented in June.
Legislation to Promote Gender Equality
Gender Equality has been promoted through special legislation for more than 30 years (No. 78/1976, No. 65/1985, No. 28/1991, No. 96/2000). The current legislation on gender equality is the Act on Equal Status and Equal Rights of Women and Men no. 10/2008. The aim of the Act is to establish and maintain equal status and equal opportunities for women and men, and thus promote gender equality in all spheres of the society. It states that all individuals shall have equal opportunities to benefit from their own enterprise and to develop their skills irrespective of gender.
But what measures are necessary to reach the goals of this act?
- Gender mainstreaming in decision-making and policy-making in all spheres of the society,
- Working on the equal influence of women and men in the society,
- Improving especially the status of women and increasing their opportunities in the society,
- Working against unequal pay and other gender-based discrimination in the labour market
- Enabling both women and men to reconcile their occupational and family obligations,
- Increasing education in matters of equality,
- Analyzing statistics according to sex.
- Increasing research in gender studies.
- Working against gender based violence and harassment
- Changing gender images and working against negative stereotypes on the roles of women and men
The Ministry of Social Affairs is in charge of the implementation of the gender equality legislation. There is a special department within the Ministry of Social Affairs in charge of Gender Equality and Employment Affairs. The Centre for Gender Equality is responsible for administrative questions. The official gender equality system in Iceland is then divided into three separate entities
• The Centre for Gender Equality
• The Equal Status Council
• The Complaints Committee
Centre for Gender Equality
The Centre for Gender Equality is the national bureau, situated in the municipality of Akureyri in the northern part of Iceland. It is in charge of administering the Act on Equal Status and Equal Rights of Women and Men nr. 10/2008.
It does this by providing counseling and education in the field of gender equality, for authorities, companies and individuals. It also suggests special actions to improve the status or opportunities for women and men. Finally, it works toward the elimination of unequal pay for same work or work of equal value and other discrimination in the labour market and works against gender stereotypes.
The Centre can also act as a watchdog, if required. If it suspects that the Act is being breached, the Centre can ask for information from authorities, organizations, institutions and companies about how the Act is being fulfilled. If information not given, the Centre has the authority to impose a daily fine of 500 Euros pr/day.
In any workplace with 25 or more employees it is mandatory to have a gender equality action plan, securing certain non-discriminatory rights, such as equal pay, combining occupational and family obligations and special measures to prevent sexual harassment in the work place. If not, the Centre has the authority to impose a daily fine of 500 Euros pr/day
The Complaints Committee consists of three lawyers, appointed by the Minister of Social Affairs after a nomination by the Supreme Court. According to the new law one of these has to have special knowledge in gender equality affairs. Anyone can take his/her case to the committee. The rulings of the Committee are legally binding and the Centre for Gender Equality enforces the rulings of the committee.
Gender and Corporate Social Responsibility
The Government of Iceland (through its Ministry of Foreign Affairs) is one of three lead sponsor of a 12-month research and consultation project on Gender & Corporate Social Responsibility Reporting. The aim of the project - jointly implemented by IFC and GRI - is to help private enterprises worldwide create new opportunities for women, adopt best practices in sustainability reporting, and improve their bottom lines. The project is expected to help develop a Gender Sustainability Reporting Resource Guide that will complement the GRI's innovative Sustainability Reporting Framework. In order to get input on important aspects of the project a series of workshops are going to take place in different regions of the world in upcoming months.
Material for Download
- Centre for Gender Equality: http://www.felagsmalaraduneyti.is/malaflokkar/jafnrettismal/utgefid-efni/erlent/nr/3383
- Women and Men in Iceland 2009. Leaflet with statistics of women and men in Iceland in 2009 http://eng.felagsmalaraduneyti.is/media/acrobat-enskar_sidur/Women_and_Men_in_Iceland_2009.pdf
- Women and Men in Iceland 2007, a leaflet giving information on statistics regarding population, education, labour market, influence and power and income and wages in Iceland: http://www.felagsmalaraduneyti.is/malaflokkar/jafnrettismal/utgefid-efni/erlent/nr/3382
- Gender Equality in Iceland, a leaflet highlighting stepping stones in the work for equality in Iceland: http://www.felagsmalaraduneyti.is/malaflokkar/jafnrettismal/utgefid-efni/erlent/nr/3381
- Parental Leave in Iceland - Bringing the Fathers in, a report by Ingólfur V. Gíslason, head of division at the Centre for Gender Equality, on developments in the Wake of New Legislation in year 2000 on parental leave in Iceland: http://www.felagsmalaraduneyti.is/malaflokkar/jafnrettismal/utgefid-efni/erlent/nr/3380
- The Research Centre for Labour Law and Equal Rights, Bifröst University.
The Women, Business and the Law
Where are laws equal for men and women?
The Women, Business and the Law report presents indicators based on laws and regulations affecting women's prospects as entrepreneurs and employees. Several of these indicators draw on the Gender Law Library, a collection of over 2,000 legal provisions impacting women's economic status. This report does not seek to judge or rank countries, but to provide information to inform discussions about women’s economic rights. Women, Business and the Law provides data covering 6 areas: accessing institutions,using property, getting a job, providing incentives to work, building credit, and going to court. Read more about the methodology.
For detailed information on Iceland, please visit the Women, Business and
the Law Iceland page.