New cost-cutting measures in the Icelandic fisheries industry has lead to an increase in the hiring of women.
“Well, it’s not a personal thing, it’s just about smart business practices,” said Þorgrímur Már Baldursson, Director of NordIce Fishing. “The fact is that you only have to pay women 70% of what you have to pay men, and female foreign immigrants even less than that. We have shareholders and a responsibility to cut any growth in operating costs.”
Head of Human Resources for ÍsFisk hf, Selma Rós Davíðsdóttir, told the Grapevine that in general women were more eager and more likely to be well-educated than male hires.
“Well, in our case we were looking at a potential fiscal deficit. Instead of cutting the wages of our employees who were predominately male, we realised we could avoid the problem completely if we just hired women, who do the same job, to the same standard for 25-30% less money every month,” said Selma Rós. “Really, it was a no brainer. Besides, women are eager to learn, eager to work, last year over 12.000 women were enrolled in higher education and only 7.000 men, and the fact is that women are just as good at captaining ships, gutting fish, doing accounting and hell even lobbying as men are.”
Redundant employees are less satisfied by the changes however, citing not only a lack of loyalty at the hands of their former employers but also surprise at the change.
“I’d been a loyal employee of IceFish for 13 years and then women literally swooped in and took our jobs,” said fish factory worker, Bragi Águstsson who lost his job three months ago. “But they’ll be begging to have us back soon, they’ll see their mistake in due time. The worst part is you don’t know who to trust, your wife could take your job, your sister, your mother or cousin.”
Gender Studies professor at the University of Iceland, Elín Hauksdóttir says the change is not exclusive to the fishing industry. Icelandic companies in a number of industries are following suit though Elín has expressed concern over the development which she sees as “no great victory for women.”
“An actual victory would be if women got the same wage as men to begin with,” said Elín. “And not to be a smart arse about it, but feminists have been saying that it is in men’s best interest to fight for equal pay for some time, several decades in fact. Maybe this will be a wake up call, we’ll see.”