The Icelandic government is taking concrete measures to ensure pay parity. Photo: Amitesh Malhotra.
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Government should adopt stricter measures to keep companies in line

During a time when insanity continues to occur south of our border, good news is getting hard to find. But there are some positive developments to be found in Iceland, which announced on International Women’s Day that it would introduce new legislation this month to eradicate the pay gap between all forms of gender, ethnicity, sexuality, and nationality.

Iceland is the first to do this on a national scale, and the first that will legislate this on both private and public firms. The Icelandic government has heard both sides of the issue, with women protesting in October of last year for the government to do more about the pay gap, while the opposition feels this would generate more bureaucracy as the pay gap gets resolved.

When looking at this issue, it is hard not to see a need for Canada to adopt similar legislation. Canada’s wage gap between men and women is approximately 72 cents on the dollar, according to a recent study done by Oxfam Canada and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The study found Canada had remained at the same level since approximately 2011, and that women worked more hours on average than men, which is a commonly cited argument used against the existence of the wage gap. The study also found women spend three times as many hours providing unpaid care and doing household work than men.

With this kind of evidence being presented, it is worth asking why Canada has not seized upon and attempted to implement a better system to improve the lives of all Canadians. Studies like those conducted by Oxfam and the Centre for Policy Alternatives have shown that closing the wage gap benefits the economy and improves the gross domestic product.

While this move would generate more bureaucracy, implementing legislation to hold private firms accountable would help inform future employees (especially students) in selecting top places to work, since it would let them know that all employees will be paid equally ahead of time.

Besides, Canada already has elements of bureaucratic oversight in place, with Labour Canada monitoring businesses to make sure they comply with Occupational Health and Safety regulations. Having firms provide audits to prove that fair pay is being administered would encourage those organizations to close the pay gap.

While bureaucracy would be an issue initially, over time the need for oversight would diminish, as equal pay would eventually become more and more common.

Opposition to these types of motions also usually includes the argument that the pay gap is only involved in unique issues, and is not an overall systemic problem that Canada faces.

However, until studies can show that there is no pay gap between all employees no matter their gender, ethnicity, sexuality, or nationality, there is a need for government involvement and legislation to benefit all Canadians.

Iceland is leading the way in pay parity—let’s have Canada join this race to achieve equity.