Women more likely than men to be in low paid jobs

Women more likely than men to be in low paid jobs
Women more likely to be low-paid
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Women in both Ireland and Northern Ireland were consistently more likely to be low-paid compared to men, according to a new study published as part of a research programme between the Department of the Taoiseach’s Shared Island Unit and the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).

The report, Gender and Labour Market Inclusion on the Island of Ireland, draws on a consultation with key stakeholders and analysis of labour force survey data to identify barriers and opportunities to women’s participation on the island of Ireland.

Key Findings
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Labour market participation

Levels of labour market participation are lower for both women and men in Northern Ireland compared to Ireland, with female labour force participation at 76 per cent in Ireland and 72 per cent in Northern Ireland.

Having young children reduces labour market participation among women to the same extent in Ireland and Northern Ireland, but women in Northern Ireland with older children were less likely to participate than their counterparts in Ireland. Lone mothers, especially those with larger families, are less likely to be in the labour market than others, but being a lone parent operates as a stronger barrier in Northern Ireland. Also, the report found that older women in Northern Ireland are less likely to access the labour market.

Educational qualifications

The qualifications of the working-age population are considerably lower in Northern Ireland than in Ireland in overall terms, according to the report, which is likely to contribute to differences in labour market outcomes.

In Ireland, 44 per cent of women have a degree or higher, compared to 29 per cent of women in Northern Ireland. Women in both jurisdictions have higher qualifications than men, and the gap is of a similar size.

The need for further education and training for women returning to employment following a break for caregiving was also highlighted. Participants in the study noted that training systems were not geared for this group which create “barriers into career pathways.”

Conditions of employment
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Low pay

Women’s probability of being low-paid is still higher than men’s in both Ireland and Northern Ireland.

In 2022, 25 per cent of females and 18 per cent of males were low-paid in Ireland, using the definition of earning less than two-thirds of the median hourly pay (i.e. earning equal to or less than approximately €14 per hour) [1]. In Northern Ireland, 21 per cent of females and 14 per cent of males were low-paid (i.e. earning equal to or less than approximately £8 per hour).

The report found that higher education offers strong protection from low pay in both jurisdictions. Working part-time, which is much more common among female workers, is an additional risk factor for low hourly pay. The risk of low pay associated with part-time work is the same in both settings.

[1] In Ireland, in 2022, the median wage was €21.20 per hour. In Northern Ireland, the median wage was £12.50 per hour.

Working from home

In 2022, 25 per cent of females and males in Ireland were working mainly from home, compared to 14 per cent of females in Northern Ireland and 19 per cent of males. The lower working-from-home rates of females in Northern Ireland are mainly explained by their over-representation in public sector jobs (education, health, and front-line public administration) and in part-time jobs.

Hours of work

Those living in Ireland work longer hours than those living in Northern Ireland. In both jurisdictions, women are much more likely to work part-time than men. The main predictors of part-time employment are educational level, household composition and number of children. These factors have a stronger effect on the probability of working part-time for females in Ireland than in Northern Ireland.

Occupational position

Women in both jurisdictions have a lower probability of working in professional/managerial occupations, and this effect is maintained when education is held constant. The effect of having a degree or above is especially strong in Ireland, particularly for men.

Policy implications

The report concludes with the following policy implications:

  • Education is crucial for enhancing job prospects. Access to lifelong learning is also important to address inequalities experienced by older women.
  • Early Years and School Age Care: The gendered nature of care responsibilities poses challenges to women’s access to high-quality employment and is a common feature in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Access to affordable Early Years and School Age Care remains a key issue.
  • Lone parents: tackling low pay among lone parents is vital to ensure that they are not activated into in-work poverty.

If you have any questions or would like to know more about Early Childhood Ireland’s policy work, please do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected]

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