Budget decisions hit women with children harder than men

It’s not just the pay gap; tax policy is also driving a financial wedge between the sexes

Decisions made over the last 10 budgets have resulted in lower disposable incomes for women with children than their male equivalents, a new study by the ESRI will reveal.

In a new study, funded by the Parliamentary Budget Office, the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has sought to assess the impact on gender of tax-benefit policy in Ireland over the last 10 years.

According to the study, there were no major gender differences in disposable income for single males and females in Ireland, while partnered couples without children experienced similar losses in disposable income due to tax-benefit changes.

However, when children are added to the equation, the study reveals that couples with children have fared “relatively worse” over the last 10 years than couples without children. Changes to child benefit and other welfare payments were responsible for this difference.


Going one step further, the ESRI found that within couples with children, women fared relatively worse than men, due to changes in child benefit and other welfare payments over the period in question. However this differential is mitigated among couples who share their incomes.

Lone parents (who are mainly female) also saw their disposable incomes decline to a greater extent than singles without children, driven mainly by changes to benefits.

Gender split

The authors of the report find that where differences do arise, it tends to be driven by the different roles that men and women occupy in society. For example, nearly all (99 per cent) of One Parent Family Payment recipients and three quarters of carers allowance recipients are women, while men are more likely to be in receipt of jobseekers or disability allowance. This means that changes to these schemes will have a larger impact upon one gender.

Moreover, women tend to have lower earnings than men due to a variety of factors – lower female participation rates, higher rates of part-time work and lower hourly earnings due to a higher receipt of the minimum wage and the gender pay gap.

“Due to the progressivity of the tax system, changes to income tax will, therefore, tend to have a larger impact on men,” the authors say.

It is hoped that the new tool will be used to “gender proof” future budgets, by allowing government to carry out a gender impact assessment of tax-benefit policy changes, either before or after they are implemented.

The full report is to be published by the ESRI at the end of October.

Fiona Reddan

Fiona Reddan

Fiona Reddan is a writer specialising in personal finance and is the Home & Design Editor of The Irish Times