Women spend seven weeks working for nothing every year in Ireland because they are paid a sixth less than men on average annually.
This year it meant women worked for free until February 19 in Ireland, but for those in the top-paying jobs they will remain in ‘slave labour’ until the end of March.
The gap increases the higher up the jobs ladder women go, with those in the highest paid occupations receiving a quarter less a year than their male counterparts among the top 10% of earners.
And the situation has got worse for Irish women in recent years, with their pay being 94% of men’s earnings on average in 2011 back to 85.6% now — the same as it was in 2006.
Ireland is one of just six EU countries where the gap has got bigger in recent years — the others being Hungary, Portugal, Estonia, Bulgaria and Spain.
Ireland is one of the 25 EU countries that has not fully and properly brought the Union’s 2006 equality legislation into national law.
The only two that have are France and the Netherlands.
In countries where the gap is closing, it has little to do with fairness but more because the number of highly educated women has increased even more, or the fact that male-dominated sectors such as construction and engineering have been adversely affected by the crisis.
European Commission vice-president, Viviane Reding, marking European Equal Pay Day, said: “The pay gap has only narrowed marginally in recent years. To make things worse, the very slight decreasing trend for the past years is largely a result of the economic crisis, which has seen men’s earnings decrease, rather than women’s earnings increase.
“Equal pay for equal work is a founding principle of the EU, but sadly is still not yet a reality for women.
“Following years of inaction, it is time for a change,” she said.
A study on why — after decades of equal pay legislation — women are still paid less than men showed that a lack of transparency in pay systems, a lack of legal clarity in the definition of work of equal value and procedural obstacles are to blame for the continuing discrimination.
All this means that women lack the basic information to bring and win cases against discrimination. The European Commission is considering ways to improve pay transparency.
Women are most discriminated against in Estonia, Austria and Germany where the pay gap is between 22% to 30% and least in Slovenia where it is down to 2.5%.
The gender gap continues on into old age and for Irish women they have a third less after the age of 65 than their male counterparts, leading to high numbers of those at risk of suffering poverty.
Much of this is compounded by a lower share of women going out to work in Ireland than in many other countries, and much of this is blamed on the lack of affordable childcare facilities.
Childcare takes a quarter of net family income in Ireland — the highest in the EU together with the UK — and is even higher for those on low-incomes.
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