The gender pay gap means that the average Irish woman has just another week’s wages between now and the new year, while her male counterpart continues to be paid for the full 52 weeks.
Despite legislation and promises by government, the gender pay gap has been widening for the past few years as austerity measures targeted working women more.
As a result employers pay them just 86 cents for every euro they pay their male employees — that amounts to seven weeks’ pay every year.
Even after a lifetime of working for less, women’s situation gets even worse once they retire. Those on pensions saw the last of their real income towards the end of August compared to their male colleagues who, on average, receive close to 40% more a year.
These latest shocking figures have drawn criticism from the Women’s Council of Ireland which has been campaigning for decades to narrow the gap between the pay that men and women receive for work of equal value.
Instead figures for the last few years show that the gap is widening in Ireland as well as in several other EU countries, with progress so slight that it will take another 70 years — at least two generations — to achieve parity.
The difference between male and female pay in Ireland is slightly less than the EU average which is 16%, but every year counts and at current rates Irish women receive a third less income over their working lives.
The European Commission places the blame squarely on the shoulders of the EU countries’ governments, saying there are laws in place, but they are not being enforced.
They say that Ireland needs to provide better child care for working mothers. While the budget has made improvements, Alice Mary Higgins, policy officer with the Women’s Council said it falls short of what is needed.
The areas where there is a high concentration of women are also where wages are lowest such as in care work, showing such employment is undervalued once it is dominated by women.
Generally half of all working women in Ireland are earning €20,000 or less a year. They are half as likely as men to earn €50,000 or more annually. The median salary across the board is €28,000 — showing that men are earning substantially more than women.
This has little to do with qualifications as in Ireland and across the EU more women have graduated from third level than men.
Ms Higgins points out that new types of industry such as hi-tech where one would not expect to encounter old-fashioned discrimination are just as bad.
Greater pay transparency with regular reviews together with more pro-active policies by government, such as awarding contracts to those with proper gender- proofed employment practices would help, she says.
The commission is also recommending pay transparency and wants governments to ensure employers make pay levels, broken down by gender, available and that large companies provide wage structures by category and position of employee as well as pay audits.
Governments are due to report what progress they have made by the end of the year. A 2009 Swedish study shows that true gender equality would increase Ireland’s GDP by over a third.
Ms Higgins said equal pay and opportunity should not be viewed as a burden for employers and points to research that shows companies perform better when there is a better gender balance across all areas.
Slovenian women come closest to earning the same as their male counterparts with a 4.4% difference in wages — and women also make up a significant proportion of elected politicians. Estonia has the biggest gap at more than 22%.
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