Sunday 22 September 2019

Gender pay gap: Females with a degree earn significantly less than male peers, report reveals

  • OECD report reveals gender pay gap as female graduates earn almost a third less than male graduates
  • Ireland is at foot of international league for education spend
  • Nearly half of 25-64 year-olds in Ireland hold a degree
OECD report reveals gender pay gap. stock Image: PA
OECD report reveals gender pay gap. stock Image: PA
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Despite being better educated overall - women aged 25-64, with a degree in Ireland earn 28pc less than their male counterparts, according to a new report.

This is among the findings in an annual overview of structure, finances and performance of education systems in the developed world, by the international think-tank OECD.

In Ireland, nearly half (47pc) of all 25-64 year olds hold a degree, one of the largest shares across the OECD.

Third-level education rates are highest among women, at 51pc in the 25-64 age bracket, compared with 43pc for men. Among 25-34 year olds, it reaches 60pc for women and 52pc for men.

The benefits of having a degree are also spelled out in the report, with an 85pc employment rate among graduates aged 25-64 in both Ireland and across the OECD

However, among 25-64 year olds graduates in Ireland, the value of a degree is greater, with a higher probability of being employed when compared with a school-leaver who did not attend third-level.

Adults in Ireland for whom the Leaving Cert is the highest level of qualification, have an employment rate of 71pc, compared with an OECD rate of 76pc.

Irish graduates also enjoy a huge earnings advantage over someone with no higher a qualification than a Leaving Cert.

Someone with a bachelor’s degree in Ireland earns, on average, 81pc more than someone with no more than a Leaving Cert - compared with an average, 44pc, and premium across the OECD.

The financial benefits rise with the level of qualification. Those who have completed at least a master’s programme can expect to earn at least twice as much as those whose formal education stopped at Leaving Cert.

The report also reveals that Ireland is at the bottom of the international league in terms of what it spends on education, according to a new report.

Only two countries invest less of their national wealth in their education system from primary through to third -level - while Ireland is lowest in terms of spending at post-primary level.

According to Education at a Glance 2019, the average share of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) spent on education on 2016 is 3.5pc, joint second from the bottom of 35 countries and compares with an OECD average of 5pc and an EU average of 4.5pc.

And, within the overall spend; the 1.2pc of GDP going to post-primary education is the lowest internationally, comparing with an OECD average of 2pc and an EU average of 1.9pc.

GDP is the standard measure for making international comparisons, although in Ireland’s case is seen by many to exaggerate the true size of the economy by including activities of big multinationals routed through here.

However, despite relatively low levels of investment, Ireland comes out well in terms of educational attainment while pay rates for teachers are ahead.

Irish teachers have above average salaries. They also have longer teaching hours, although they not necessarily contracted to spend as long in school on other duties as international colleagues.

The 2019 report also echoes many findings of previous years in other including in relation to the amount of time pupils spend in the classroom learning different subjects.

Irish primary pupils spend twice as much time on religion than the international average – 10pc versus 5pc - while 14pc of the school year is devoted to learning another language – Irish – compared with 6pc internationally.

Against that, Irish primary pupils spend less than the international average on reading, writing and literature – 20pc versus an OECD average of 25pc - while they spend the same share of time on maths (17pc) and sciences (7pc) as their international counterparts.

Average class sizes in Ireland are also bigger than the OECD average. The 2016 data puts the average class size in Ireland at 25, although it is slightly lower than that now, compared with 21 in the OECD

Commenting on the level of investment, Teachers; Union of Ireland (TUI) general secretary Seamus Lahart said it was those from disadvantaged backgrounds who suffered the most from the negative effects of inadequate education budgets.

“Investment in education pays dividends in terms of better quality jobs and increased revenue from taxation and social contributions. It also provides the individual and their dependents with vastly better life prospects.”

On pay, he said while the starting salaries for full-time teachers at second level in Ireland were broadly in line with the OECD and EU average, most started on contracts of less than full hours.

“It remains the exception that a teacher would commence employment on a contract of full hours”, adding that “the report fails to factor in the lack of opportunity for career advancement in Irish education. “

Association of Secondary Teachers’ Ireland (ASTI) president Deirdre Mac Donald said that despite evidence of the negative consequences of inadequate investment in education for individuals and countries, the Irish Government continued to ignore the warnings.

“The OECD has previously stated that in Ireland, investment in education has not kept pace with the increased number of students entering schools. What this means is that there are less resources for more students.

“ How can the Government talk about having the best education system in Europe by 2026 when we continue to lag so far behind when it comes to investment? To be fit for the future we need to address this funding deficit immediately.

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News