Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Iceland, irrational laws, and feminist nonsense

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As I learned today, there has been a highly negative development and dangerous precedent in Iceland:

An extremely unwise new law requires “equal” pay between men and women*. This is a good example of the problems with a mixture of democracy and stupid/uninformed voters resp. stupid/uninformed/populist politicians; and equally why it is important to have “small government”, with governmental interference limited to what is necessary—not what buys more votes. Further, it is a good example of how a “noble” cause does more harm than good to society.

*The linked-to article uses the absurdly incorrect formulation “legalise”, which would imply that it would be legal to have equal pay. Presumably, the author intended some variation of “legislate”. (If not ideal, at least much better than “legalise”.)

There are at least the following problems involved:

  1. It falls into the trap of the obnoxious and extremely misleading “77 cents on the dollar” lie. Men and women already have equal pay for equal work in very large parts of the world, including Iceland (and Sweden, Germany, the U.S., …) In fact, in as far as there are differences, they actually tend to favour women… Only by making unequal comparisons by failing to adjust for e.g. hours worked, qualifications, field of work, …, can such nonsense like the “77 cents on the dollar” lie even gain a semblance of truth. Cf. below.
  2. It fails to consider aspects like skill at negotiation and willingness to take risks. Cf. an earlier post.
  3. It risks, as a consequence of the two previous items, to give women a major artificial advantage and men a corresponding disadvantage. Basically, if feminist accounting would eventually find “100 cents on the dollar”, a true accounting would imply “130 cents on the dollar”, given women a de facto 30 % advantage instead of the current alleged male 30 % advantage implied by “77 cents on the dollar”).
  4. Judging whether two people actually do sufficiently similar jobs that the same remuneration is warranted is extremely tricky, and the law risks a great degree of arbitrariness or even, depending on details that I have not researched, that differences in remuneration between people on different performance levels shrink even further*.

    *In most jobs, and the more so the more competence they require, there is a considerable difference between the best, the average, the worst of those who carry the same title, have the same formal qualifications, whatnot. This is only very rarely reflected in payment to the degree that it should be (to achieve fairness towards the employees and rational decision making among employers). In software development, e.g., it is unusual that the difference in value added between the best and worst team member is less than a factor of two; a factor of ten is not unheard of; and there are even people so poor that the team would be better off without their presence—they remove value. Do salaries vary similarly? No…

  5. For compliance, “companies and government agencies employing at least 25 people will have to obtain government certification of their equal-pay policies”. The implication is considerable additional bureaucracy and cost for these organizations and likely, again depending on details I have not researched, the government it self.

    To boot, this is exactly the type of regulation that makes it hard for small companies to expand, and that gives the owners incentives to artificially limit themselves.

    From the reverse angle, for those who actually support this law, such vagueness could weaken* the law considerably—while keeping the extra cost and bureaucracy. Similarly, if the checks are actually fair and come to a conclusion that reflects reality, then changes in actual pay levels will be small and mostly indirect—with, again, the extra cost and bureaucracy added.

    *But I would not bet on it being enough to remove the inherit injustice and sexual discrimination it implies.

  6. It opens the doors to similarly misguided legislation, like e.g. a law requiring that certain quotas of women are met by all organisations—even when there are few women who are interested in their fields. (Implying that women would be given better conditions and greater incentives than men in those fields. Incidentally, something that can already be seen in some areas even with pressure stemming just from “public opinion” and PR considerations—not an actual law.)

As to the “77 cents on the dollar” and related misconceptions, lies, misinterpreted statistics, whatnot, I have already written several posts (e.g. [1], [2] ) and have since encountered a number of articles by others attacking this nonsense from various angles, for example: [3], [4], [5], [6], [7].

Simply put: Anyone who still believes in this nonsense is either extremely poorly informed or unable to understand basic reasoning—and any politician who uses this rhetoric is either the same or extremely unethical. I try to remain reasonably diplomatic in my writings, but enough is enough! The degree of ignorance and/or stupidity displayed by these people is such that they truly deserve to be called “idiots”. They are not one iota better than believers in astrology or a flat earth.


Written by michaeleriksson

January 2, 2018 at 9:35 pm

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