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O'Sullivan welcomes moves to Close the Gender Pay Gap

9 August 2017

Statement by Jan O'Sullivan TD
Spokesperson on Housing & Local Government, Enterprise & Innovation

Labour spokesperson on Enterprise and Innovation, Jan O’Sullivan TD, has welcomed the launch of a public consultation to tackle gender pay inequality across the public and private sectors, but says legislation will be required to ensure companies undertake wage surveys.

Deputy O’Sullivan commented:

“The gender pay gap has been brought sharply into the public focus in recent weeks following pay controversies at the BBC and RTÉ, but that a gender pay gap exists in Irish workplaces is not ‘news’.

“We know that Irish women earn around 13.9 per cent less than their male colleagues, or put another way, are working for free for around one month every year.

“I welcome that the Government is finally moving on this by seeking to engage with key stakeholders, including employers and trade unions, on this important issue.

“Last March, Labour launched legislation to require companies with at least 50 employees to regularly publish wage transparency surveys that would serve to highlight whether a gap in earnings exists between male and female staff.

“Such legislation already exists in countries like Belgium, where at 6.6 per cent comes in way below the average EU gender pay gap.

“It is not enough to rely on companies to simply volunteer this information, particularly given the likely bad press that would follow if an organisation was found to have significant discrepancies between the earnings of their men and women staff.

“The predominance of women in the low paid or minimum wage sectors such as retail, hospitality or social care, as well as the high costs of childcare acting as a disincentive for many women to return to work, all contribute to the gender pay gap. And as we saw with recent HEA and civil service figures, there is also a disproportionate number of women in senior managerial roles.

“I welcome comments from Minister Frances Fitzgerald of the need to promote women entrepreneurs, develop skills and particularly the push to increase the uptake of STEM subjects among girls and young women.

“This has a clear knock-on impact on these sectors more broadly; for example take tech giant Google, which says just 20 per cent of its tech workers are women, while women account for just 25 per cent of leadership roles.

“The gender pay gap can have far reaching consequences for women, impacting their lifelong earnings, economic independence and later in life, even resulting in a pension gender gap, which a recent survey put at around 35 per cent.

“Ireland has already shown leadership on the world stage on marriage equality; it’s time to make similar strides to bring about greater equality between women and men.”