Sólveig Anna: No later than now
I find it strange that so few politicians have supported our demands for a 425,000ISK minimum wage. If I was a politician, I couldn’t imagine anything else, even with all the other things I’d have to think about, than standing with working and low-wage people in Iceland in their fight for fair distribution of the wealth of society.
I would do it for many reasons, of course first and foremost for reasons of justice; it’s simply unjust that some people have to live in deprivation while others live in luxury.
I would do it for “childish” reasons; a society that acknowledges everyone’s contribution and shows everyone respect is a society that makes children feel well, shows them that they are allowed to and should live a good and beautiful life.
I would do it for environmental reasons; if we really want to fight the climate threat, we have to fight the class divisions and inequality that suffocates the world; it is, for instance, not a real solution to tax gas and meat while some people never need to think how much they spend, while others consider carefully every last coin; this will only increase the class antagonism, and those who have the least will simply end up having even less. (I also realize that because it has been fashionable to play with the living conditions of the public in the social experiments of the ruling class, it’s not strange that politicians want to continue on the same path; that now the lower classes shall be ground even further down to make amends for the environmental crimes of capitalism.)
I would also do it with sense and reason; because stability isn’t possible in a society where nothing is done to equalise people’s conditions, because in the most expensive country in Europe people will inescapably be dissatisfied when they not only get low wages, but also have to suffer heavy taxation. (Low-wage families in Iceland now carry one of the highest tax burdens in the OECD states.) It is incredibly unreasonable to think that people can be threatened and forced to accept that their existence should be as hard as possible while the existence of others should be as easy as possible. Politicians who seek societal stability can’t look past this fact of human nature.
And I would not least do it in the name of women’s rights. I could, for example, not imagine fighting for the fundamental rights that women should be free from all kinds of violence, while at the same time disregard the basic fact of subsistence. It is immediately obvious that a woman on low wages, a woman who has been sentenced to sell her labour power at a discount in a society where everything costs money, and a lot of it, that this woman is forced to suffer things nobody should have to.
Women’s labour power is important, truth be told it’s vitally important, in Iceland. Working and low-wage women work in the tourist industry; in hotels they’re indispensable, and we can safely say that no money would be made in the hotel industry without women’s work. They clean society, without their work, institutions and companies couldn’t stay open. They work in the fishing industry; without the labour power of women, you couldn’t process fish for export. They do jobs that society simply couldn’t do without, jobs that society reawards with exceptional callousness and disregard; jobs that were unpaid in previous times, jobs that were assigned to women, so-called care work, in kindergartens, care homes, hospitals and schools. If these women don’t do their job, everything comes to a juddering halt.
That is why it is ridiculous and disgusting to accept that they get barely a thing for the fundamental importance of their contribution.
Women will benefit if the minimum wage rises. Women will have a better chance to be independent if the minimum wage rises. Women will have more opportunities to make their dreams come true if the minimum wage rises. Women will be able to work less if the minimum wage rises, and have better mental and physical health as a result. Women will be able to spend more time with their children if the minimum wage rises. Women will have a better life if the minimum wage rises, that is simply a fact which cannot be overlooked.
If I was a politician I would not hesitate to support the demands of the working and low-wage workers for a 425,000ISK minimum wage, for many reasons. And one of the most important would be this: It is completely intolerable that in the year 2019, in a country that prides itself on women’s rights, women are still held down economically. It is completely intolerable that the capitalistic economic system cannot survive without the female labour power, but at the same time gets away with paying wages which prohibit survival.
It is not permissible to wax ecstatic about equality, human rights, women’s liberation and a brighter future while women are made to do foundational work at wages which don’t secure their subsistence. People who want to decorate themselves with the feathers of women’s movements should show some courage and declare categorical support for the struggle of low-wage women for economic justice.
If I was a politician, I would do it no later than now.
Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir, head of Efling.