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Why Is the U.S. Lagging Way Behind Other Countries in Closing the Gender Pay Gap?

February 5, 2018 in Blogs

By Liz Posner, AlterNet

The U.S. has lessons to learn from Iceland, Slovenia and Rwanda.

Economists estimate that at the current rate of progress, American men and women will earn equal income in another 200 years. Considering the past century has already hosted three separate feminist movements that successfully granted women the right to vote, passed Roe v. Wade and established women's right to work, today's feminists will demand we work a little quicker than that. It’s hard to fathom waiting another two centuries for equal pay. Dozens of other countries are already beating us in the global race to financial equity, so it certainly is possible. The U.S. has crucial lessons to learn from these nations.

The gender pay gap is not just a problem in the U.S., where women make 76 cents to a man's dollar (the pay gap is even wider for women of color). Globally, the problem is dire. As World Economic Forum writes, “At the current rate of change, and given the continued widening of the economic gender gap already observed last year, it will now not be closed for another 217 years.”

In its annual study of the countries with the widest and smallest gender pay gaps, WEF recognized the countries that have made the most progress toward equal pay. 2017’s list of most equitable countries lists the following among the top 10:

  1. Iceland
  2. Norway
  3. Finland
  4. Rwanda
  5. Sweden
  6. Nicaragua
  7. Slovenia
  8. Ireland
  9. New Zealand
  10. Philippines

By comparison, the United States ranks #49. So what are the takeaways from this year's list?

Iceland has made the top 10 list consistently for the past several years. But it's not sitting comfortably at the top: Iceland's government says its work striving for equal pay isn’t done. A new law in the country requires all companies with 25 employees or more to file for government certification of their equal pay policies, which involves an audit. Companies that skip the certification will receive a fine. Dagny Aradottir Pind, a board member of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association, told PRI, “it puts some [burden] on employers, but the results should be that the system of managing pay should be settled in …read more


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