Several thousand of female employees across Iceland walked out of workplaces at 2.38pm on Monday to protest against earning less than men.
Iceland is the best country in the world for gender equality, yet women still earn on average 14 to 18 per cent less than their male colleagues.
According to unions and women’s organisations, this means in every eight hour day women are essentially working without pay from 2.38pm.
In the Nordic country’s capital, Reykjavik, thousands of women gathered in central Austurvöllur square when they left the offices, shops, factories, and schools where they were supposed to be working. Similar but smaller protests are thought to have taken place around the country.
The action had precedent: on 24 October 1975 Icelandic women took a “day off”.
An estimated 90 per cent of the female population participated, leaving work and refusing to cook or look after children to draw attention to their importance in society, but lack of political power and equal pay.
In 2005, women left work at 2.08pm — the minute they began working for free.
In 2008, it was 2.25pm.
In eleven years, less than three minutes has been gained annually towards eliminating the gender pay gap, English-language Icelandic news site Grapevine reported.
If progress continues at the same rate, it will take 52 years to eliminate the disparity between men and women’s earnings in Iceland entirely.
Gylfi Arnbjörnsson, president of the Icelandic Confederation of Labor, told the country’s official national broadcaster RÚV, that for 60 years it has been illegal in Iceland to discriminate on the basis of gender.
Wage contracts can take into account education level and type of job, but not whether someone is male or female.
“No one puts up with waiting 50 years to reach a goal,” Arnbjörnsson said. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s a gender pay gap or any other pay gap. It’s just unacceptable to say we’ll correct this in 50 years. That’s a lifetime.”