Women across Iceland – including the prime minister – will go on strike Tuesday as part of a campaign pushing for greater gender equality in the country.
This will be the seventh time that women in Iceland strike in the name of gender equality, campaign organizers said on their official website. The first strike took place on October 24, 1975.
“On 24 October, all women in Iceland, including immigrant women, are encouraged to stop work, both paid and unpaid. For the whole day, women (and non-binary people) will strike, to demonstrate the importance of their contribution to society,” organizers said.
The strike, which is known as the “Women’s Day Off” or “Kvennafrí” in Icelandic, hopes to raise awareness about the “systemic” wage discrimination and gender-based violence faced by women in Iceland, according to organizers.
Icelandic Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir told Icelandic news site Iceland Monitor on Friday that she will not work on the strike day and expects other female members of government to do the same “in solidarity with Icelandic women.”
“As you know, we have not yet reached our goals of full gender equality and we are still tackling the gender-based wage gap, which is unacceptable in 2023. We are still tackling gender-based violence, which has been a priority for my government to tackle,” Jakobsdóttir said.
Her government had previously committed to eradicating the gender pay gap by 2022.
Icelandic employers have historically gotten behind the strikes and not prevented or docked the pay of employees who participate, according to organizers.
This year’s strike has the backing of the country’s largest federation of public workers unions, the Federation of the Public Workers Union in Iceland (BSRB), the Icelandic Nurses’ Association and the Icelandic Association of Women’s Associations, among others.
Organizers are drawing particular attention to the plight of immigrant women whose “invaluable” contribution to Icelandic society they say is “rarely acknowledged or reflected in the wages they receive.
Writing for CNN in 2019, Jakobsdóttir described how testimonies from migrant and ethnic minority women marked a turning point in Iceland. “They revealed that while Iceland has made internationally recognized progress on gender equality, we have not sufficiently confronted the intersections of gender, racial and class injustices,” she wrote.
Organizers have called on men to show their support for women striking by “taking on additional responsibilities” in home and at work which will enable female and non-binary partners/ colleagues to strike.
Meanwhile, the Icelandic government is focused on a recently launched research project into the wage disparity between professions traditionally dominated by men versus those dominated by women, according to Jakobsdóttir.
“We are looking at how these jobs are different… because we estimate that the difference in wages that exists is due to this,” Jakobsdóttir said.