Graduate gender pay gap widens over time, official figures reveal

Pay for male graduates outstrips that for women by €130 a week eight years after college

While women outperform men in the Leaving Cert and at third level, pay for men outstrips that of women by, on average, €14 per week within a year of graduating. Photograph: iStock

While women outperform men in the Leaving Cert and at third level, pay for men outstrips that of women by, on average, €14 per week within a year of graduating. Photograph: iStock

 

A pay gap between male and female graduates opens up within a year of leaving college and widens over time, a study by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) has found.

While women outperform men in the Leaving Cert and at third level, pay for men outstrips that of women by, on average, €14 per week within a year of graduating, rising to €130 per week after eight years.

The HEA study tracked the earnings of tens of thousands of graduates who left third-level between 2010 and 2017. It suggests a student’s future earnings are strongly linked to the type of school they went to, the type of higher education institution they attended, how many points they secured in the Leaving Cert and their subject choice.

On gender, the study says much of the gender pay gap can be explained by the higher proportions of men opting for higher-earning courses, such as ICT and engineering. Higher proportions of women also opt for lower-earning areas such as arts and pre-school teaching.

However, even after adjusting for this and comparing men and women completing the same courses, there is still an earnings gap of about 3 per cent.

Career breaks

While much of the gender pay gap in the wider labour market is attributed to higher numbers of women taking career breaks for family reasons and child rearing, this study seeks to account for these factors.

Previous studies have given many possible explanations for why female graduates earn less than males in their early careers. They include discriminatory hiring and promotion practices, with male graduates more likely to secure higher returns on their degree programmes and first-class honours grades.

Overall, this latest study shows graduates in medicine are by far the best paid within four years of leaving college, followed by statistics, chemical engineering, medical diagnostic technology and ICT.

By contrast, pre-school education and arts graduates are the lowest earners and take home about half these amounts.

Overall, this study breaks down degree subjects in more detail than ever before by analysing earnings for about 70 different areas of study.

The study also indicates that the trajectory of a graduate’s earnings are heavily influenced by a combination of factors such as their Leaving Cert points, the type of school they attended, and gender.

For example, college graduates who went to fee-paying schools earn more than graduates who attended disadvantaged schools – even where they ended up studying same third level course.

Deis schools

Overall, graduates who attended private schools earned 22 per cent more than those who attended disadvantaged or Deis schools eight years after college.

However, when these figures are adjusted to compare students on a like-for-like basis – such as studying the same type of course – the difference in earnings falls to just under 3 per cent.

The type of higher education institution a student attended also influences graduate earnings.

For example, graduates from institutes of technology earn 14 per cent less than university graduates four years after graduation.

However, when comparing like-for-like individuals, this difference falls to 4 per cent.

The research is based on matching Revenue data on earnings with individual students and graduates on an anonymised basis.

The study ’s authors have cautioned that the income data covers PAYE income for employees only; self-employment income is excluded.

Earnings are defined in the report as an individual’s weekly gross earning, less tax reliefs such as pension contributions.