Seanad debates

Monday, 8 March 2021

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Gender Equality

10:30 am

Photo of Marie SherlockMarie Sherlock (Labour) | Oireachtas source

It is great to have the Minister in the Chamber today. It is difficult to convey the enormity of the challenge of trying to close the gender pay gap in this country. Senator Bacik spoke about the hourly wage gap but we all relate to weekly or monthly earnings and the average weekly earnings for women in this country are 25.05% less than the average weekly earnings of men. That is because of the gap in hourly pay but also because more women are trapped in part-time employment. Some 11% of men were in part-time employment in this country last year, compared to 28% of women. When it comes to retirement, that gap gets even bigger. We know from EUROSTAT figures that there is a 28.6% gap between the pensions of men and women.

Such is the scale of the gap that not one single legislative measure will be a magic bullet. We need a series of measures. The legislation Senator Bacik put forward three years ago will only shine a spotlight into recruitment and progression practices within firms. That is an important starting point and an important spotlight but it cannot be the finish line. The game-changer in closing the gender pay gap is the right to be recognised for collective bargaining. One might ask how that relates to women. There is a growing body of international evidence that shows that where there are higher levels of co-ordinated bargaining within workplaces there is lower wage dispersion, and when there is lower wage dispersion there is less of an earnings gap between men and women. The EU adequate minimum wages directive will also be hugely instrumental in allowing a framework for the right to collective bargaining in this country. The Tánaiste, along with fellow EU employment ministers, is actively trying to hobble this directive. As a first step, we are asking the Government to get on with the legislation and then allow this directive to pass.


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