Women carry out 70% of the family care work in Ireland, thus limiting their earning power and reducing the size of their pension on retirement.
Furthermore research has shown 50% of female workers earn less than €20,000 a year. The median Irish wage is €28,500.
UCD academic Maggie Feeley says women can often get caught in the ‘care trap’ because of the prohibitive costs and poor availability of childcare services. They can become the default carer in the home and leave the workplace as a result.
Ms Feeley, alongside Ursula Barry, contributed a chapter called ‘Gender and Economic Inequality in Ireland’ to last week’s TASC (Think-tank for Action on Social Change) report, Economic Inequality in Ireland.
“There’s quite a lot of academic research that says the primary gender inequality is the inequality in the division of care labour. Until that is equally shared, women are going to be economically disadvantaged,” Ms Feeley told the Irish Examiner.
In 2015, McKinsey Global Institute published a report called How Advancing Women’s Inequality Can Add $12tr to Global Growth. In this report, it showed that family care work in Ireland is shared unequally between women (70%) and men (30%).
Ms Feeley referenced this figure in last week’s report.
To achieve equality between men and women, we need to avoid a binary argument of one against the other and instead, make equality matter to all, Ms Feeley said.
“Efforts by women and their allies to influence change in the unequal gender order are hampered by durable stereotypes and the failure to see gender equality as something that is in all our interests.
“Perhaps, with just cause, construing the problem as men’s exclusion from care, might provoke greater outrage and better outcomes,” said Ms Feeley.
“We’ve been putting out statistics time and time again about women earning less, but we need to let men see they’re also disadvantaged in this situation.”
Research by Ms Feeley’s co-author Ms Barry, ‘Ireland in Crisis: Women, Austerity and Inequality’, is also included in last week’s TASC report.
This research, co-written by Pauline Conroy, showed that 50% of women earners bring home less than €20,000 a year. It also brought to light that 63% of lone parents (90% of whom are women) live in poverty in Ireland.
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