From Iceland — Women With Masters Degrees Earn As Much As Men With Bachelors, New Study Finds

Women With Masters Degrees Earn As Much As Men With Bachelors, New Study Finds

Published February 19, 2021

Photo by
Eyþór Árnason

Sonja Ýr Þorbergsdóttir, chairwoman of BSRB, has told RÚV that there is still a huge issue with the gender pay gap that needs addressing.

It was reported that women who have graduated with a masters degree generally make almost 100,000 ISK less than men with a standard bachelor degree.

The chairwomen told the news agency that on average, men earn 29% more than women and, Sonja says, “We are facing a complete stagnation in equality issues as there has been no real progress recently. Women with a primary school education have a similar total income as men who have only completed primary school but in rural areas, men have a higher income.”

“We are stagnant in equality issues.”

The main reason for this large income gap is that data was given incorrectly in the beginning. It has not been possible to correct the skewed value assessment that underlies the wages of large women’s classes.

“If it is given incorrectly in the beginning and the wage development in each wage agreement is similar between the sexes, then the error is always there,” Sonja says.

Sonja also thinks that one of the reasons the gap exists is that many of the careers women might choose were not valued in society years ago. Whilst the societal view has changed, the wage has not.

These career choices have a great impact, as does power in general, as women are also less likely to be elected to management positions than men.

Coronavirus has shed light on how important certain jobs are.

Sonja believes there is little progress being made about the equality issues in Iceland, despite the fact that Iceland are doing well with this compared to other countries.

Sonja however is optimistic about how the COVID-19 epidemic has highlighted how important many of the jobs women work in rather than men.

“One can now feel from the coronavirus epidemic that all the nations of the world are discussing this. Now the spotlight is on the importance of these jobs, the front-line people, the vast majority of whom are women and are in the health or care professions and in schools.”

The gap exists in both the private and public sector.

“We see a huge difference in total wages between men and women. There is often a smaller difference between the basic salary but when you look at overtime and other salaries that are added to the basic salary, the gap increases significantly,” says Sonja in the interview with RÚV.

When asked to further explain this, Sonja told the news agency that classes where women are in the vast majority are more in the public labour market and there they work according to rates in the wage agreement and have little chance of wage increases.

“In jobs where men are in the majority, there is generally more opportunity to raise wages. There seems to be more scope for raising men in wages than women,” says Sonja.

Reversing the unacceptable situation.

To reverse the situation Iceland finds itself in, various measures are needed to be implemented. The first step is to simply recognize the problem and to look at how women’s jobs are valued for wages.

It must be acknowledged that women’s wages have been wrong from the very beginning.

A working group was set up with representatives from the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Social Affairs, trade unions and employers’ associations, with the task of proposing measures to eliminate the gender pay gap in order to correct systematic underestimation of jobs where women are in the majority.

Sonja considers this to be a very big step in the right direction and is happy that the government has declared that the wage of jobs that women work in has been incorrectly assessed.

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