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Gender gap: Irish women pay 'high price' for motherhood

A new OECD report shows that the gender pay gap in Ireland widens as women have children.

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IRISH WOMEN BEGIN to earn less money than men after they have children, a new OECD study has shown.

The pay gap stands at -17 per cent before women have children, but after at least one child moves to 14 per cent.

The OECD also shows that men in Ireland work 344 minutes per day in paid work, 129 minutes in unpaid work, and 473 minutes in total. Women in Ireland work 197 minutes paid work, 296 in unpaid work and 493 minutes in total per day.

The OECD average for men’s work in total is 472 minutes, and for women is 493 minutes.

Closing the Gender Gap

In OECD countries men earn on average 16 per cent more than women in similar full-time jobs, but at the top of the pay scale this rises to 21 per cent, which the OECD said showed “the continued presence of a glass ceiling”.

OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said:

Closing the gender gap must be a central part of any strategy to create more sustainable economies and inclusive societies. The world’s population is ageing and this challenge can only be mastered if all the talent available is mobilised.

The figures come from the latest OECD report, Closing the Gender Gap: Act now, which shows that the average pay gap between men and women widens to 22 per cent in families with one or more children. For couples without children, the gap is 7 per cent on average. Overall, the wage penalty for having children is on average 14 per cent.

The OECD says that improving the tax and benefit system for working parents would help tackle this. “After accounting for childcare, more than half (52 per cent) of a family’s second wage is effectively taxed away,” it said. This proportion rises to 65 per cent and above in Australia, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland, the United States and the United Kingdom.

The report also says that if childcare eats up one wage, there is often little or no financial gain from both parents working or at least working full-time. 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.

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During the recent economic crisis, women have suffered less than men in terms of employment and married women have often been able to cushion household earnings by working more, said the OECD. But it said crisis-driven cuts in public sector employment – where women account for just under 60 per cent of the total workforce -will worsen womens’ position in the labour market in coming years.

It also said increasing a father’s individual entitlement to parental leave may increase a father’s share in caring on a longer term basis.

According to the report, the impact of pay inequality is dramatic over a woman’s lifetime. Women over 65 are today more than one and a half times more likely to live in poverty than men in the same age bracket.

The proportion of women-owned businesses is around 30 per cent in OECD countries, and self-employed women also earn 30 to 40 per cent less than their male counterparts. Improving women’s access to business financing is key, said the OECD.

In OECD countries girls outperform boys in many subject in school, and are more likely to stay there until 18 and beyond. But girls are less likely to choose science or technology subjects. The OECD recommends raising awareness of the consequences of educational choices on career and earnings prospects, but also says a shift in perceptions and social norms takes time and needs to take place both at school and at home.

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