Education Employment and Social Issues News

Statement from W.O.M.E.N in Iceland: Icelandic courses provided by employers.

W.O.M.E.N In Iceland strongly disagrees with the comments made today in an interview published on Rúv by Sólveig Jónsdóttir Chair of Efling . It is important to note that she is the head of perhaps the largest union in Iceland, representing the largest number of employees of foreign origin. The statement is harmful to the decade-long struggle for foreigners living in Iceland to receive increased access to quality Icelandic courses on behalf of employers. Job market integration is in many instances critical to societal integration. Support from the labour market in accessing quality language courses is key to integration in society and job market development. Many employees of foreign origin are not provided with assistance or genuine access to learning Icelandic by employers who often require a minimum amount of Icelandic skills. The promise of support and increased access to Icelandic courses in the workplace would fully support upward mobility for people of foreign origin, who most often accept jobs below their educational or prior work experiences.

We strongly object to the idea that the demand for Icelandic courses being provided by employees comes from educational elites. Reality is it comes in most cases directly from us. We certainly hope that the very unions fighting for equal wages and equal rights in the job market should understand the value of allowing us equal access to the Icelandic language in addition to the flexibility and support from our employers in learning it. In a survey conducted by W.O.M.E.N in Iceland published in 2021 our findings highlighted issues women of foreign origin expressed to be of vital importance to them. We encouraged both national and local authorities to take note of and respond to these issues with proactive initiatives.

The foremost import initiative related to the demand for support in accessing quality Icelandic courses. An overwhelming number of respondents requested support for Icelandic language tuition, as they felt it would have direct consequences for economic and societal growth. If not addressed, it would continue to have repercussions for women of foreign origin who experience inequality and a lack of access to upward mobility in the job market and in society.

W.O.M.E.N in Iceland highly recommends that leadership of unions with members of foreign origin conduct research among their members of foreign origin to determine just how important Icelandic language support by employers is. Unions that receive vast amounts of membership fees from members of foreign origin are obliged to realize their responsibility in supporting labour market equality and genuine opportunity for success in the Icelandic labour market for employees of diverse backgrounds. 

We are very glad to see members from the Icelandic Education realm finally stand with us in recognizing the obligation of the labour market in supporting wider access to opportunities to learn the Icelandic language. Additionally, we sincerely hope that our statement will be taken to account by leadership on both sides of the negotiation table in collective wage agreement negotiations.

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