Remote working brings record number of women into labour force

Cantillon: Commission praises State on gender equality but not early-stage education

It was a mix of good and bad on the European Commission’s report card on Monday on Ireland following a recent in-depth review.

On the plus side, the number of women participating in the labour force in Ireland has reached a record high due to a shift to remote working during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the European Commission.

The female participation rate jumped over the course of the pandemic to reach 72 per cent, according to Eurostat data, a sharp increase from the pre-pandemic level of about 67 per cent to bring Ireland well above the European Union average.

“The shift to remote work has increased the number of women working or looking for work, and their participation in the labour force reached a record level,” read Ireland’s 2022 country report by the European Commission, released on Monday.

Equal opportunities

It noted that Ireland had made “excellent progress” on a number of indicators including gender equality, while the number of women holding positions in senior management rose sharply to 28.8 per cent in 2020 compared to 15.3 per cent in 2015.

However, investments in early-childhood education and care policies are necessary to improve equal opportunities, the report found.

There is limited participation in formal childcare among children under three years old, with only 11.8 per cent attending childcare for more than 30 hours a week, compared to the EU average of 19.5 per cent, the report found.

“The country continues to have one of the EU’s highest cost levels for early childhood education and care,” it found.

Climate effort

On the negative side, the commission had some tough words for Ireland’s effort on climate.

Ireland “did not achieve” some of its 2020 climate and energy targets and “is lagging behind in using renewable energy”, as 86 per cent of its energy mix “still relies on natural gas, oil and petroleum”.

The country required “statistical transfers” in order to reach its 2020 renewable energy target and “needs to make considerable efforts to get back on track” towards its 2030 climate and energy targets.

“Air quality in Ireland continues to give cause for serious concern,” it added, with over 1,300 premature deaths each year attributed to fine particulate matter in the air, according to the European Environment Agency.

A lot done, more to do as a Fianna Fáil election slogan once put it.