The Irish Gender Pay Gap In Numbers

Women in the European Union still earn on average 16% less than men, a slight improvement from last year's 16.2%.

This year the European Equal Pay Day fell on 4 November.

It marked the day when women symbolically stop getting paid compared to their male colleagues for the same job.

The factors behind the pay gap are varied and complex, but generally, centre around the facts that:

  • Women take up vastly more of the part-time sector than men.
  • Women are confronted with the corporate glass ceiling.
  • Women work in lower-paid sectors or often have to take the primary responsibility for the care of their families.

Pay differences also depend on gender stereotypes and discrimination. The relative weights of these causes cannot be known without more pay transparency.

The Irish economy, at present, has returned to the thriving pace of the Celtic Tiger, but it masks an underlying inequality that’s still holding women back. 

Could that be because – despite growing calls for an update – the home is still enshrined in the Irish Constitution as a woman's place?

The wording of Article 41.2 states that “by her life within the home, the woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved”.

It is further stated that because of this primary function as homemakers, mothers “shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in their home”.

In 1937 Eamon de Valera, the primary architect of the Constitution, claimed that “everyone knows there is little chance of having a home ... if there is no woman in it, the woman is really the home-maker”.

A recent survey by Irishjobs.ie and Universum found that the gender pay gap often begins at the start of working life, given that many women set their pay expectations 10 per cent lower than male peers straight out of university.

The survey asked nearly 11,000 new graduates from 25 different Irish universities and colleges to specify their salary expectations; among STEM graduates, male applicants expected some 10 per cent more than their female peers and among business graduates, male graduates expected 6 per cent more.  

At EU-level, different initiatives have been taken during the past five years of the Juncker Commission.

In 2014, the Commission adopted a recommendation on strengthening the principle of equal pay between men and women through promoting concrete pay transparency measures, including the right to information, pay audit, pay reporting inclusion of equal pay issues in collective bargaining.

However, the 2017 Report on the implementation of the Recommendation found insufficient implementation and effectiveness of the measures.

Closer to home, the Irish government is drafting its own law to make it mandatory for organisations to report on the means and median average pay for men and women.

The move has been welcomed by Irish businesses and unions keen to build on the experience of the UK government, which introduced similar legislation in 2017.

One important aspect of the Irish update of the law, part of Ireland’s national strategy for women and girls, is the intention to make it compulsory for organisations to give some background context about their gender gap, rather than simply reporting statistics.

In the UK, providing additional information is not mandatory and thus is only published by some 16 per cent of organisations. The government is hoping that this will accommodate a far better balance. 

The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) each year publishes a Gender Equality Index to deduce the progress of gender equality in all EU member states.

Ireland scored 71.3 / 100 points in the 2019 index – placing it above the EU average of 66.2.

The index revealed that a women's mean monthly earnings are €2,808 in Ireland, compared to €3,423 for men, while the full-time equivalent employment rate for women is 43.9% compared to 60% for men.

It also shows that, on average, a woman's working life in Ireland spans 33.1 years, in comparison with 40.1 for men.

Finally, the index disclosed that a woman's Constitutional right still rings true – as 88.7% of women cook and or do housework every day, compared with just 48% of men. 

Dress for Success Dublin (DFSD), headed up by Sonya Lennon, launched its fourth annual #WorkEqual campaign on Monday to highlight the continuing issues around gender equality in the workplace.

The #WorkEqual campaign is an effort to bring together leading figures from the world of business, politics and policymaking in order to thrash out possible solutions to the issue.

Its initiative will hinge on a leadership conference at The Marker Hotel in Dublin on Wednesday, November 27.

There will also be an online campaign to motivate members of the public to prioritise the issue of gender equality at the next general election.

Main image by @caitrionabalfe

READ MORE: Let's Get Political: Why Do We Still Rank So Low for Women in Politics?

READ MORE: Today Is Equal Pay Day – Here's How An Post Is Reducing Its Pay Gap

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