Statistics Iceland published 2019’s income data this week, revealing that Iceland still has some way to go to achieve economic gender equality.
According to data from last year’s tax returns, the average personal income in Iceland in 2019 was 6.9 million ISK (roughly €43,000), an 0.9% increase from the previous year, but incomes varied concerningly between genders.
The average annual employment income for men totalled 5.8 million ISK whereas women were paid just over 4 million ISK on average. This 1.8 million ISK gap means that women’s average annual employment income was 30% lower than men’s. Average total income also showed a distinct gap – men reported an average annual total income of 7.7 million but women’s incomes were around 21% lower at just over 6 million ISK.
In general, Iceland is considered one of the world’s leading countries when it comes to gender equality. In fact in the World Economic Forum’s most recent Geneva Equality List, Iceland was declared the world’s most gender-equal country in the world for the 11th year running. But as the chart above shows, the gender gap in average annual employment income has seen little improvement in recent years.
Earlier on in the year, Statistics Iceland also published data on the position of women in medium and large companies. Women represented just 34.7% of board members in businesses with over 50 employees in 2019. Although this is 1.1% up from 2018, according to Iceland’s gender equality legislation management teams in enterprises of this side should be at least 40% comprised of women.
Speaking to Visir, the executive director of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association Brynhildur Heiðar- og Ómarsdóttir expressed concern about the new data. As she explains, when people discuss the gender pay gap, they reference the difference in rates of hourly pay. However, Brunhilde believes that the difference in total incomes is also a key indicator of gender inequality.
According to Brynhildur, total income figures reflect the fact that women on average work fewer hours per month. “Of course, this difference does not happen because women are lazier than men and do not bother to work as much,” she says. “This difference in total income is due to the fact that women are doing an enormous amount of unpaid work for society and for the family.” Women are more likely to work as informal unpaid carers, looking after children and elderly relatives she explains.
Brynhildur makes another important point: women’s lower incomes will not just affect them now, they will also affect their pensions later in life. “Women who work shorter hours to do all this unpaid work expect lower pension income when they retire than men. This is a huge problem.”
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