On Monday, The Equal Pay Standard, a part of a larger piece of legislation that passed in June, took effect in Iceland.
It requires that businesses with 25 full-time employees or more must report to the government, every three years, an analysis of their salaries for men and women. Businesses are subject to penalties and fines, if necessary. This enforces previous equal pay laws that have been in effect since 1961 in the nation.
Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted Wednesday night “Iceland just became the first country in the world to make it illegal to pay men more than women. In the United States in 2016, black women made 62.5 cents on the dollar compared to white men and hispanic women made 54.4 cents. That is a disgrace.”
Here’s the thing though, Bernie: in America, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, Section 6 states that “No employer shall discriminate on the basis of sex by paying wages less than those earned by the opposite sex.” Equal pay for equal work. A simple look at Pew Research Center statistics and the USDL will show that, yes, if you add up every dollar a man makes, and compare it to every dollar a woman makes, and do some simple division, you will indeed find the number 77 or 78. If you take into account women’s decisions, the fact that women tend to major in lesser paying subjects (liberal arts, humanities) and men tend to major in higher paying jobs (science, engineering), this gap closes entirely.
Any basic economics class will tell you that statistical disparity does not equate to discrimination.
This is why Iceland’s demand for equal pay seems unnecessary. Couldn’t there be a gap in wages resulting from the decisions made by women? On average, women also work fewer hours each year, and they are more likely to experience interruptions, such as maternity leave, which is proven to have long-term effects on annual earnings. Say you have a job in dance therapy, and your neighbor has a job in petroleum engineering. Is it discrimination that she makes more than you? Is there a man somewhere stealing your money?