Saturday 22 July 2017

The Irish workplace is changing - now pay and promotions must follow

Women remain under-represented in company boardrooms, with an 18pc participation rate here compared to 22pc in the UK and 34pc in France. (Stock picture)
Women remain under-represented in company boardrooms, with an 18pc participation rate here compared to 22pc in the UK and 34pc in France. (Stock picture)
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Ireland is changing, not only at the highest level of political office with the election of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, but across wider society too.

The number of women in the workforce and in education continues to rise, and women now make up almost 46pc of the working population.

In part, it's due to the number of men retiring over recent years, but it's also due to increased numbers of females in school and going on to third-level education.

Staying in education is paying dividends, with lower unemployment rates among educated women.

The Central Statistics Office analysis shows that in terms of participation in the labour force, the percentage of men is falling and it's now at rates not seen in 15 years.

"Male participation fell in 2016 to 67.8pc, from 69.4pc in 2011, bringing it back below 2002 rates," it said. "Female participation on the other hand continued to rise, from 54.6pc in 2011 to 55.2 in 2016."

It's worth noting that in 1991, it stood at 35.9pc for women.

While more men are choosing to work in the home looking after house and family, it's at a low level with fewer than 20,500. Almost 278,000 women work at home, compared with 313,000 five years ago.

The statistics would suggest that in many families, it falls to the women to act as primary caregivers for children.

Despite the welcome figures, issues remain.

A recent report from the OECD noted that not only did a gender pay gap exist, it was widening with a 6.5pc difference in pay scales among men and women.

Women remain under-represented in company boardrooms, with an 18pc participation rate here compared to 22pc in the UK and 34pc in France.

This suggests that although more women are in work, they are paid less and the route to the top seems harder than for men.

But while some things change, others remain the same.

There are unemployment blackspots across the country, as the recent economic gains fail to reach all parts of the State.

Limerick, Waterford, Dublin City and Donegal have the highest numbers and further analysis is needed to determine what jobs, if any, are available in these areas, and if supports are needed to help people enter or return to the workforce.

While more people pronounce themselves to have good health, a number of people - particularly the elderly - continue to rely on unpaid carers, almost 200,000 of them, in lieu of Government supports. It's striking that 3,800 children are responsible for looking after family.

The Census also raises profound questions about how sustainable our lifestyles are.

While there has been a noticeable and welcome rise in the numbers cycling to work, most workers use the car, fuelling carbon emissions and impacting on air quality. In most cases, children don't get the bus, walk or cycle to school, they're driven, exacerbating morning congestion levels.

Further details on Census 2016 will be available across 11 reports to be published by year end. But the overview produced already points to broader issues which need to be addressed.

Irish Independent

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