Steady rise in number of women employed


THE number of women working since 1981 has continued to rise, while that of employed men has declined, according to a report on occupations and education by FAS and the Economic and Social Research Institute.

The report, Changing Profiles in Occupations and Educational Attainment, also shows a significant rise in women working in key categories, including the managerial sector.

From 1981 to 1994, female employment rose by more than an average 2 per cent a year, while the number of men in employment fell by 0.5 per cent each year.

Unemployment rates for women were also consistently lower than those for men, except in the case of managers and professional workers.

Employment rates for women rose annually in almost every occupational sector, including a significant rate of increase in the numbers of women in management. The number of women who are managers more than doubled, from 7,200 in 1981 to nearly 19,000 in 1994.

In contrast, the number of male managers increased by less than 20 per cent, from 50,000 in 1981 to 58,000 in 1994.

Employment in the managerial, professional, service and technical sectors increased by 30-45 per cent on aggregate from 1981 to 1994, even rising during recession.

"The report indicates that women are becoming much more important in the labour force," said Mr Gerry Hughes, senior research officer with the ESRI. "We expect that trend for more female managers to continue in the future.

Women in the labour force, however, continue to be concentrated in a more restricted range of jobs than men. Some 53 per cent of women were in either clerical occupations, sales or personnel in 1994, while nearly 25 per cent were involved in professional and technical work.

Skilled and semi-skilled manual workers made up 27 per cent of the labour force, the largest group. Yet unemployment in this sector was high, as was unemployment among labourers and agricultural workers. Education in these sectors was also lower than average, with 77 per cent of agricultural workers and 75 per cent of labourers not reaching Leaving Cert level.

The report confirms the relatively low levels of education in Ireland compared to other EU countries.

In 1991, almost half the workforce of 1,134,000 had not finished secondary education while only 20 per cent had sub-degree qualifications or higher. Almost one-quarter of the workforce had completed only primary level education.

There was an improvement in educational standards between 1981 and 1991, with those educated only to primary level dropping from 27 per cent in 1981 to 17 per cent in 1991.

For the same years, those educated to Leaving Cert standard rose from 28 per cent to 36 per cent of the workforce.

"The jobs which are expected to be created in the future will require people to have Leaving Certificate or higher-level qualifications," said Mr Hughes. "For people with lower levels of qualifications, demand will be quite weak."

The report also indicates that there may be shortages of labour in some areas, including electronics, computer sciences and telemarketing.

Labour supply problems may also arise in the professional, technical and services areas if high employment continues, said Mr Hughes. However, in some cases the large outflow from third-level education had led to "credentials inflation" as people took jobs which were below their level of education, especially in the clerical, semi-skilled and unskilled areas.