Tailoring the tool to reality or the reality to the tool? About the equal pay standard and the elimination of the gender pay gap


  • Ragna Kemp Haraldsdóttir
  • Guðbjörg Linda Rafnsdóttir
  • Guðbjörg Andrea Jónsdóttir




Public Administration, equality, equal pay standard, equal pay certification, gender pay gap.


In order to combat the gender pay gap in Iceland and promote equality in the labour market, equal pay certification was enacted with the equal pay standard by law no. 56/2017. The purpose of the standard is for organizations to implement an equal pay system, which ensures that decisions do not include discriminatory practices based on gender. The main purpose of the study is to examine whether the equal pay standard has achieved its goal. Interviews were conducted with all four certification bodies to explore the implementation and the certification of the standard. Furthermore, changes in the gender pay gap were analysed based on Statistics Iceland’s data on wages during 2012-2020. The analysis is based on data from organizations that participated in the wage study for the whole time period. Wages of men and women within organizations before and after the equal pay certification were also compared. Certification bodies see the certification as a successful step in the interest of pay equality. However, serious observations were made regarding lack of instructions from the government. The gender pay gap has decreased by almost eight percentage points over the time period although little difference is visible between wage trends in organizations that have received certification and those that have not. Thus, it is not possible to confirm that the implementation of the standard has had any direct effect on the gender pay gap. It may have had an indirect effect through public discourse that has led to a general decrease. Although the equal pay standard has increased the quality of work regarding wage settings, there are concerns about inaccurate work practices and that the standard lends legitimacy to the differences related to occupational segregation and the gender pay gap. The lack of guidelines for precise working practices is a problem that the government should respond to quickly and clearly.

Author Biographies

Ragna Kemp Haraldsdóttir

Assistant Professor at the University of Iceland.

Guðbjörg Linda Rafnsdóttir

Professor at the University of Iceland.

Guðbjörg Andrea Jónsdóttir

Director, Social Science Research Institute, University of Iceland.



How to Cite

Haraldsdóttir, R. K., Rafnsdóttir, G. L., & Jónsdóttir, G. A. (2022). Tailoring the tool to reality or the reality to the tool? About the equal pay standard and the elimination of the gender pay gap. Icelandic Review of Politics & Administration, 18(2), 235–260. https://doi.org/10.13177/irpa.a.2022.18.2.4



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