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Saturday 16 December 2017

Irish women have it better in some aspects of life than others in Europe – Christine Lagarde

By Lyndsey Telford

Irish women have it better in some aspects of life than most of Europe, one of the world's top economic chiefs has insisted.

Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), said Irish women tend to perform better than those in other eurozone states in terms of education and employment.

The finance chief insisted new gender quota laws for the Dail parliament were necessary to ensure more women are included in politics.

"My general take on the status of Irish women relative to other states in Europe is that Irish women tend to perform better than in other countries in the eurozone," Ms Lagarde said.

"In terms of access to parliament, education and employment-unemployment rates, Irish women have much better numbers."

Mr Lagarde also raised the issue of a gender pay gap despite the increased participation.

"They (women) rank better than some of their colleagues in the eurozone. Having said that, their salary - like anywhere else in the world - is lower," she said.

The IMF boss - who said she was confident the state is on track to exit its bailout programme and predicted a brighter economic future - said it was important politicians make sure women have a say on how the country is run.

Ms Lagarde, who held talks with Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore and Finance Minister Michael Noonan in Dublin, said the country's economic activity is still weak but growth is expected to exceed that of most EU countries this year.

Elsewhere, Ms Lagarde insisted the IMF, European Commission and European Central Bank - which make up Ireland's debt masters the Troika - had not directed the Government to increase levels of home repossessions.

She said while the high level of mortgage arrears in Ireland was clearly a huge problem for the state, repossessions should be a last resort for banks.

Ms Lagarde repeated claims from the Taoiseach that banks should focus on restructuring the terms and conditions of repayments for customers to help them out of financial distress.

Official figures released yesterday revealed that more than 180,000 mortgages are in arrears.

The report from the Central Bank found that 143, 851 private households were behind to some degree, with €1.8m of repayments not met.

Also marking International Women's Day, the former French finance minister said plans to increase female representation in the Dail would return good results.

"I used to be against it. Like many of us coming out after hard years of studies, we thought we should be included on the basis of our merits," Ms Lagarde said.

"But when I gained experience in the professional world I soon realised it would take forever.

"I do think quotas are helpful - not forever, but for a period of time. I think quotas are necessary and I have seen it work."

Ms Lagarde said female politicians serving in the French senate and in some of the Nordic countries were evidence that gender quotas work and that they produce results.

New laws passed last year demand that political parties ensure 30pc of their candidates at the next general election are women.

That figure is to rise to 40pc at subsequent elections.

Parties that fail to reach those gender quotas will see their funding from the state halved.

Ms Lagarde added that she was confident Ireland would reach its 2015 target of reducing its deficit to 3pc.

"Ireland and the Irish programme are setting standards in terms of financial success, in terms of results," Ms Lagarde said.

She added that she was pleased with how well the country was performing in digging itself out of the worst economic crisis in its history.

Press Association

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