The gender pay gap in Ireland has been a problem for decades. This issue has continued to persist despite legislative efforts in the past. However, in 2019, Ireland passed the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill to amend previous legislation on the matter. The bill requires employers to make known any pay differences between female and male employees and to take action to address unjustified differences. Supporters of the bill hope that it will force employers to acknowledge and close the pay gap. It is important to recognize how far Ireland has come toward rectifying inequality, acknowledging the poverty it can induce.
History of the Gender Pay Gap in Ireland
Gender equality policies in Ireland were implemented when Ireland joined the European Economic Committee (EEC) in the 1970s. In 1973, women made up only 27% of Ireland’s workforce. As a result of joining the EEC, Ireland dropped the marriage bar for women working in civil service occupations. The marriage bar forced employed women to resign from their jobs once married. The bar was clearly discriminatory and to the disadvantage of women. Joining the EU also helped Ireland integrate more women into the workforce through gender mainstreaming on all government projects supported by the EU. Gender mainstreaming requires equal opportunities for men and women. Eventually, Ireland extended gender mainstreaming to state projects as well. By 2018, 77.2% of women in Ireland were working.
Unfortunately, despite increased representation in the workforce, the pay gap between men and women did not diminish. Before the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill, the government passed extensive legislation to try to minimize the gap. This includes the Anti-Discrimination Pay Act of 1974 and the Employment Equality Act of 1998. Yet, the pay gap remained substantial.
The Equal Pay Act of 1970 was supposed to regulate the pay gap between men and women. However, employers were able to get around this by changing women’s job titles, reinforcing the gender pay gap decades later. The Equal Pay Act of 1970 legislated equal pay and equal conditions for men and women. The loophole allowed employers to continue discriminatory practices, and decades later, a gender wage gap still exists.
Rectifying the Gender Wage Gap
In previous bills, the wording was often too vague and unspecific so employers could find loopholes to get away with underpaying their female employees. The Gender Pay Gap Information Bill works to narrow these possibilities by using more specific wording to apply to all public bodies. It also grants a minister the ability to get involved with these matters and enforce these rules. The bill also requires companies to report on the payment disparities between employees. Where companies could once get away with payment disparities through bonus packages, the bill eliminates this by holding companies accountable in their reports. Businesses refusing to take a course of action to rectify pay gaps can be held responsible to do so by the government.
The most recent statistic available on the pay gap in Ireland as of 2017 is 14.4%. The EU gender pay gap average was almost 15%, indicating that Ireland is doing better in this regard than other EU states. Further work is necessitated for Ireland to completely eliminate the disparity, but identifying where the problem originates is the first step toward this goal. The Gender Pay Gap Information Bill aims to help close the gap and achieve gender equality.
– Samantha Fazio