Addressing the committee on Thursday, Mary Murphy, professor of sociology at the Social Sciences Institute, Maynooth University, said the Government has incentivised private providers in the care sector, promoting an economic model based on high fees and low wages.
She said that “75% of childcare and 85% of elder care is now commodified, with consequences for affordability, accessibility, standards, staff ratios, and poor pay and working conditions for the predominantly female and often migrant staff.”
"Ireland’s care model was brutally exposed in the pandemic faultlines.
Professor Murphy said that failures were absorbed “through the community and family, and primarily by women”.
The Oireachtas committee, chaired by Labour leader Ivana Bacik, was set up to address the recommendations made in the report published in April 2021 by the Citizens' Assembly on gender equality.
The focus of the meeting was on recommendations 4-19 of the Citizens’ Assembly report, relating to the care sector.
The report said that it was clear, even before Covid-19, that the Irish model of care needed to be transformed to ensure that every person is valued by society and that high-quality care was provided for all who need it at every stage of life. The report stressed that such an approach was even more urgent in a post-pandemic world to commit to well-designed, publicly funded pay and career structures for those in the care sector.
Before the meeting, Ms Bacik said: “The issue of care is central to any discussion on gender equality in Ireland as women do the bulk of unpaid and domestic care work.
"The hourly wage of childcare sector staff is 43.5% below the average national wage, while 80% of childcare workers do not have sick pay,” she said.
"The Oireachtas resolution asked the Assembly to bring forward proposals to seek to ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in the workplace, politics. and public life. It is clear that until there is equality for those who work as carers, full gender equality cannot be achieved.”