Irish women start ‘working for nothing’ this week

Women earn 13.6% less than men, which amounts to working seven weeks for free

The gender pay gap in Ireland is 13.6 per cent. “The pay gap has actually widened over recent years and one of the reasons for that is women are predominating in low-paid jobs,” says Niamh Allen of the National Women’s Council of Ireland. Illustration: Sorbetto

The gender pay gap in Ireland is 13.6 per cent. “The pay gap has actually widened over recent years and one of the reasons for that is women are predominating in low-paid jobs,” says Niamh Allen of the National Women’s Council of Ireland. Illustration: Sorbetto

 

Women in Ireland are working for nothing from this week. “The current gender pay gap means women in Ireland effectively stop earning – relative to men – on this date,” Sonya Lennon, the designer and entrepreneur, said as she launched Dress for Success Dublin’s equal pay campaign. The campaign opposes the situation of women earning less than men for each hour that they work.

In Ireland, the gender pay gap stands at 13.6 per cent, according to the latest figures from the EU. Based on that figure, the campaign has made a crude but telling calculation.

“Another way to look at this – if you shave 14 per cent off the end of the calendar – is that women work for free for about the last seven weeks of each year. Overall, women can expect to earn significantly less than men over their entire careers.”

Niamh Allen, head of development at the National Women’s Council of Ireland, told The Irish Times: “Should women be earning less than men? The obvious answer is no, and yet, in Ireland this is still the case.”

But is this going to change any time soon? Not according to the authors of a recent World Economic Forum report. They forecast that it may take 170 years to eradicate the disparity in pay between men and women and called for urgent action to close the gender equality pay gap – which is far greater internationally.

“When measured in terms of income and employment, the [global] gender pay gap has widened in the past four years; at 59 per cent, it is now at a similar level to that seen in the depths of the financial crisis in 2008.”

This year, the Geneva-based institution calculated the gender pay gap would take until 2186 to close.

Walk out

France

Iceland protested against its gender pay gap last week, as it does every year, on October 24th. Women in Iceland have been shouting “Ut”, or “Out,” to discrimination against women for 41 years.

In spite of the country’s image as a woman-friendly nirvana, a woman in Iceland earns only 72 cents for every dollar earned by a man. The women who took to the streets in Reykjavik were effectively sticking it to the man – again – and saying: if I were a man, I might have earned my paycheck by now, so I’m taking the rest of the afternoon off and demanding change.

So why aren’t women rising to the top of the pay league?

The gender pay gap occurs because of a combination of factors, says Allen.

“The pay gap has actually widened over recent years and one of the reasons for that is women are predominating in low-paid jobs. The majority of low-paid workers in Ireland are women. Over half of women earn €20,000 or less a year. Another important factor is that we have a low number of women at senior level both within the private and public sector.”

Childcare costs

Sonya Lennon is annoyed that “a man and woman with the same career path and position often get paid different salaries”.

She says that women are “less assertive about asking for salary increases and can be more self-critical in terms of their abilities”. This can lead to a “perception that they are inferior when the reality is that they work at least as hard and are at least as effective”.

Lennon says that women in the workforce are still not treated the same as men and that this is not good for business.

Women in Ireland can hardly be happy at being paid 13.6 per cent less, but for now they are staying at their desks. While women in Iceland and France leave their workplaces to protest against gender pay inequity, Irish women are working on. Maybe it is time to put someone on notice.

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