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Stark gender differences show gender equality must be at the heart of next Programme for Government

Published: Friday, May 01, 2020

The National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) today commented on the publication of the CSO Women and Men in Ireland Report, the first report since 2016, saying that the stark gender differences show that gender equality must be at the heart of the next Programme for Government.

Orla O’Connor, Director of NWCI said,

“The Women and Men in Ireland Report is an essential resource in monitoring the position of women and men across a range of areas. It clearly highlights persistent inequalities in key areas of Irish life, including pay, women in decision making and work.”


Orla O’Connor noted,

“One of the starkest statistics contained in the report was the large variations in employment rates between women with and without children. This rate varied from 88.1% for women in a couple and with no children to 66.8% for women whose youngest child was aged between 4 and 5 years of age, a difference of 21.3 percentage points. In contrast, the presence of children had a much smaller effect on the employment rate for men. Without doubt, the next Government must prioritise the delivery of a public childcare model, with a cap on fees, to ensure that women are not forced to leave the workforce when they have children. Flexible work, and paid parental leave are also crucial elements here.”


Orla O’Connor continued,

“A persistent gender pay gap of 14.4% remains, with having higher earned incomes than women across all levels of education, in spite of women having higher levels of education attainment. This is undoubtedly in part due to the fact that women are more likely to be over represented in low paid work, and men over represented in high paid work. Figures show that men are more likely to have an income over €50,000 a year, over 22.8% compared to 14.8% of women, whereas almost half of women (46.2%) earn less than €20,000 per year compared to just 36.5% of men. Even in sectors that are female dominated, like care work, the median income for women is 75% of that of men.

The impact of low pay on women is keenly felt in their older years; the at risk of poverty rate for women over age 65 was 24.6% compared to 15.2% among men, showing the impact of low paid, precarious, non-pensionable work and caring responsibilities that builds up over a woman’s life, leaving more women reliant on the non-contributory pension. The next Government must establish a Stakeholder forum to look at reform of the State pension.”

Decision Making

“Men significantly outnumber women in all national decision making structures in Ireland. This is clear in the civil service, where 2/3 civil servants are women (63.8%), but only 11.8% of secretary generals are women and 34% of Deputy Secretaries and Assistant Secretaries. By contrast 73.1% of clerical officers and 66.3% of executive officers are women.

It is also clear in politics, where we have the 10th lowest representation of women in parliament in Europe, a number which barely changed with the 2020 General Election. We need gender quotas for local elections, to improve the pipeline for women in national politics. In the most recent general election, many of the political parties just scraped the 30% quota. With this due to rise to a 40% quota in 2023, the bigger parties need to engage in long term succession planning that factors women in. As it stands, with 49 of our 60 Seanad seats filled, 30.6% of our Seanad is made up of women. We are calling for the 11 Taoiseach’s nominees to be women, and women from diverse backgrounds, to increase women’s representation in our next Oireachtas.”


Orla O’Connor highlighted,

“The highly gendered nature of care in Ireland is another stubborn inequality highlighted in the report. There were 79,914 people receiving Carer's Allowance in 2018, of whom about three-quarters (76.5%) were women. Alongside this, more than six out of ten (61%) of the 195,263 carers providing unpaid help in 2016 were women. Of female carers, 30.5% provided 29 hours or more of unpaid help each week in 2016, compared to 25.9% of male carers who provided 29 hours or more of unpaid help each week in 2016. We need to legislate for a public and accessible care infrastructure to support people at all stages of the lifecycle. This includes a public childcare system but also more paid parental leave, and a right to homecare for older people and Personal Assistance for people with disabilities”.


For more information, please contact Sarah Clarkin, Communications and Social Media Coordinator, 085 8619087