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European Approaches to the Gender Pay Gap

The policies of other nations can offer some insight into how to address pay inequality. Iceland, for example, has consistently been at the top of the world rankings for workplace gender equality in the World Economic Forum survey. A new Icelandic law went into effect on January 1, 2018, that makes it illegal to pay men more than women, gauged not by specific job category, but rather in all jobs collectively at any employer with twenty-five or more employees, a concept known as an aggregate salary data approach. The burden of proof is on employers to show that men and women are paid equally or they face a fine. The ultimate goal is to eliminate all pay inequities in Iceland by the year 2022. The United Kingdom has taken a first step toward addressing this issue by mandating pay transparency, which requires employers with 250 workers or more to publish details on the gaps in average pay between their male and female employees.

Policies not directly linked to salary can help as well. German children have a legal right to a place in kindergarten from the age of three years, which has allowed one-third of mothers who could not otherwise afford nursery school or kindergarten to join the workforce. In the United Kingdom, the government offers up to thirty hours weekly of free care for three- and four-year-old children, to help mothers get back in the workforce. Laws such as these allow women, who are often the primary caregivers in a household, to experience fewer interruptions in their careers, a factor often blamed for the wage gap in the United States.

The World Economic Forum reports that about 65 percent of all Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries have introduced new policies on pay equality, including requiring many employers to publish calculations every year showing the gender pay gap. Steps such as the collection and reporting of aggregate salary data, or some form of early education or subsidized childcare, are positive steps toward eventually achieving the goal of wage equality.

Revised from Byars and Stanberry (2018) pg. 175.

  • Which of these policies do you think would be the most likely to be implemented in the United States and why?
  • How would each of the normative theories of ethical behavior (utilitarianism, deontology, virtue, and justice ethics) view this issue and these proposed solutions?
  • You recently became CEO of a company with 400 employees where men made 25% more than women on average across all employees. What actions would you take to reduce this gap to under 10% within two years? Would it be realistic to reduce the gap to 0? Why or why not?

 

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