It is expected that tens of thousands of women, including the Prime Minister, will participate in this one-day strike.
Known as "Kvennafrí" or "Women's Day Off," this marks the seventh time Icelandic women have stopped working to draw attention to gender inequality. It is expected to be the largest strike of Icelandic women in nearly 50 years, according to the official strike website.
Around 90% of Iceland's female population participated in a strike on October 24, 1975, demanding gender equality. The original "Kvennafrí" led the Icelandic parliament to pass a law the following year guaranteeing equal pay for equal work.
Approximately 40 organizations, including the Federation of State and Municipal Employees (BSRB), the country's largest association of public service unions, plan to participate in the demonstration on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir told the Icelandic news site "Icelandic Monitor" that she will not work on the day of the strike and expects other women in the government to join her "in solidarity with Icelandic women."
"As you know, we have not yet reached our goals of full gender equality, and we are still fighting against the gender pay gap, which is unacceptable in 2023," Jakobsdóttir said. "We are still fighting against gender-based violence, which is a priority for my government."
Organizers are calling on women and non-binary individuals in Iceland not to take on any paid or unpaid work on Tuesday, including childcare and household chores, to "demonstrate the importance of their contribution to society," as stated on the strike website.
Men are encouraged to show their support by "taking on extra responsibilities" at home and in the workplace to allow their partners and colleagues to join the strike.
In anticipation of the demonstration on Tuesday, schools may reduce hours or close, as women make up the majority of teachers in Iceland. According to the New York Times and Iceland's national broadcaster RUV, Landspitali Hospital, the largest employer in Iceland's healthcare sector, has stated that it will operate with reduced services.
The World Economic Forum has ranked Iceland as the best country in the world for women for 14 consecutive years. However, organizers have stated that serious issues persist.
"People talk about us, they talk about Iceland as if it's a paradise for equality," said Freyja Steingrímsdóttir, one of the strike organizers and the director of public relations at BSRB, to the New York Times. "But in paradise, there shouldn't be a 21% pay gap and 40% of women experiencing gender or sexual violence during their lifetime. This is not what women all around the world are striving for."
While the World Economic Forum estimates the gender pay gap in the country to be 21%, other sources, including the OECD, estimate it to be closer to 10%.
In 2018, a study from the University of Iceland showed that 40% of Icelandic women experience gender-based and sexual violence during their lifetime.
According to the OECD, the gender pay gap in Iceland is higher than in some neighboring countries, including Belgium and Italy.
Part of the reason this gap hasn't closed is due to the strong labor market segregation that Icelandic women face. According to a 2021 study by the European Parliament, they are overrepresented in low-paying positions in public service.
Given its global reputation as a leader in gender equality, Steingrímsdóttir told the Times that Iceland has a responsibility to "make sure we live up to these expectations."
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