On Monday 14 August, the Government launched a public consultation and wage survey in a bid to tackle the gender pay gap in Ireland. It is the first step on a long road.
So why do we have a gender pay gap?
According to recent analysis by the European Commission, the factors that contribute to the gender pay gap include the following:
- Higher-paid management and supervisory positions are more likely to be held by men who receive higher pay as a consequence;
- Women are more likely than men to be in part-time or temporary work, which is typically lower paid than full-time work. Women take charge of important unpaid tasks, such as household work and caring for children or relatives on a far larger scale than men do. In the EU working men spend on average 9 hours per week on unpaid care and household activities, while working women spend 26 hours on these tasks.
- Women are more likely than men to take time off work to take care of dependent family members or relatives. These career interruptions not only influence hourly pay, but also impact future earnings and pensions;
- Women are more likely than men to be in less well-paid professions and sectors. Segregation in education and in the labour market means that women tend to be overrepresented in some sectors and occupations, while in others men are overrepresented. In some countries, occupations predominantly carried out by women, such as teaching or sales, offer lower wages than occupations predominantly carried out by men, even when the same level of experience and education is needed; and
- Pay discrimination, while illegal, continues to contribute to part of the gender pay gap.
So what needs to happen? In my view one of the first steps is for both parents to take the same amount of time off from work to look after their children. This starts to put the sexes back on an equal footing. A man taking time off work to care for his family should not be seen as a weakness. Unfortunately it often is. Women should not be viewed as having 'checked out' because they have small children. Unfortunately they often are. Taking 6-12 months to look after a new baby should not make an employee less valuable to a business no matter what sex they are.
In Sweden, parents are entitled to 480 days of paid parental leave when a child is born or adopted. Let's have a look at that model!
Employers, trade unions and members of the public will be given six weeks to outline their views on what can be done to narrow the gap between the earnings of male and female workers. The public consultation follows controversies over the gender pay gap in the BBC and RTÉ in recent weeks. The figures from the national broadcaster confirmed only three of the top 10 on-air presenters are women. RTÉ has hired Kieran Mulvey, former director-general of the Workplace Relations Commission, to provide an independent overview and make recommendations. The public is being invited to take part in a consultation process. It has been estimated men earn on average 14 per cent more than women in Ireland. Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan believes the consultation process is and will be much bigger than any one organisation.