Irishwomen hit hardest in EU by parenthood

Motherhood takes a bigger toll on Irish women than on women in the rest of Europe.

An OECD report has blamed steeper childcare costs and taxes for deterring mothers from working more.

Men, meanwhile, earn an average of 11% more than women in similar full-time jobs, despite decades of equal pay legislation. And the difference can stretch to 21% at the top of pay scales.

The average pay gap between men and women widens to 22% for individuals with one or more children. But, for people without children, the gap is 7%.

The average wage penalty for having children in countries surveyed is 14%, with Korea showing the greatest gap, while Italy and Spain have almost none.

The OECD report suggests that improving the tax and benefit system for working parents would narrow the gap.

After taking care of childcare, more than half a family’s second wage is effectively taxed away.

“If childcare eats up one wage, there is often little or no financial gain from both parents working or at least working full-time,” said the report.

“Part-time work among women is most common in Austria, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the UK. Taking into account part-time work, the gender wage gap in take-home pay doubles in many European countries, and triples in Ireland and the Netherlands.”

Over the course of the economic crisis, women in Ireland and Spain have suffered fewer job losses than men.

Married women, meanwhile, have often been able to cushion household earnings losses by working more.

However, the report found that crisis-driven cuts in the public sector where women make up 60% of the workforce, will worsen women’s position in the labour market.

“Governments must make sure that spending cuts do not reverse progress made in gender equality in employment”, the OECD warned.

Even when Irish women are self-employed, they still make 40% less than their male counterparts — even though Irish women have the highest educational levels compared to men in all the OECD countries surveyed.

Ireland has one of the lowest proportions of women on the boards of listed companies, lower than Egypt and Turkey, according to the OECD.

This is despite Irish women having one of the best scores for “financial literacy” in the report.

When considered over the lifetime of a woman, the effect of pay inequality is dramatic. Having worked unpaid at home and less in formal employment, many women retire on low pensions and see out their final years in poverty, the report further reveals.

Women live an average of nearly six years longer than men, and women over 65 years of age now are more than one-and-a-half times more likely to live in poverty than men in the same age bracket.


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