The family is being blamed for the gap in income between men and women, in new paper published today.
Research by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) commissioned by the Equality Authority says the fact that women take time out to have children is the chief reason for the continuing pay gap.
Based on data from the 2003 National Employment Survey, the study finds that the gap between men’s and women’s hourly wages was about 22 per cent for all employees. About two-thirds of this gap was due to “observable” differences between male and female workers.
The fact that women took time out of their careers to look after children, or to take on other caring responsibilities was one of the main reasons for this, researchers found
The Irish Times reports that the research reveals that women tended to have higher levels of education, but men had more labour market experience, due to the fact they tended not take time out for care duties.
Dr Seán McGuinness, co-author of the report, said that the fact that women take time out ‘degraded’ their skills and meant that they re-entered the labour market at the same level at which they left.
The report argues that policies aimed at allowing men and women to take on care work without being penalised are the best way to reduce the pay gap. “Career breaks, which allow people to maintain their position while away from the formal labour market, would appear to be the most effective way of doing this,” said Dr McGuinness.
Currently, the most widely available type of flexible working arrangement was part-time work, which was mainly taken up by women with care responsibilities, and in which they tended to earn less than less-qualified male counterparts. "This suggests that part-time female workers are on the whole more qualified and experienced than their male counterparts,” the authors suggest.
The paper says that policies such as parental and maternal leave and childcare provision, which it argues increase continuity in women’s employment, are necessary to erase the pay gap between men and women.
The paper also suggests that employment practices designed to reconcile family and working life would be useful in this regard, although it stresses such policies would have to be carefully designed.
Parental leave, it suggests "may serve to reinforce traditional gender roles, including the primary role of women in childcare and other caring responsibilities, and thus counteract policies to support continuity of women’s employment".
Looking at wage gaps across sectors, the authors found raw differences were broadly similar. When adjusted to take account of “observable” factors – education and time out of the labour market – there were large variations.