IMPACT blog: Massive Pay Penalty for Motherhood in Ireland

Surprisingly, the median earnings of Irish women who have no children and who are aged between 25 and 44 are 17.5% higher than those of their male counterparts.
Surprisingly, the median earnings of Irish women who have no children and who are aged between 25 and 44 are 17.5% higher than those of their male counterparts.

A research paper entitled ‘Which Countries in Europe Have the Best Gender Equality in the Workplace?’ was published recently by the recruitment company Glassdoor. The analysis spans 18 Western-European countries and uses a 19th, the United States, as a benchmark. The focus of the research is on the status of women in the workplace.

The research has shed some light on the manner in which the gender-pay gap manifests itself in Ireland.

Surprisingly, the median earnings of Irish women who have no children and who are aged between 25 and 44 are 17.5% higher than those of their male counterparts.

Ireland’s pay gap lies elsewhere. Of the 19 countries surveyed by the Glassdoor research, the cost of becoming a mother is highest in Ireland.

Irish women aged 25 to 44 with at least one child earned, on average, 14% less than their male counterparts and 31% less than women without children. Of the countries surveyed, Ireland has the most pronounced gender pay gap for women with children.

A major cause of Ireland’s massive maternal pay gap is the extremely high cost of childcare. Given that childcare in Ireland consumes such a relatively large proportion of earnings, women who have had children often do not return to work or return to work on a part-time basis in order to mitigate childcare costs. In fact, 40% of working mothers in Ireland work part-time.

There is a deeply embedded, socio-structural expectation in Ireland that women will take up the unpaid domestic labour associated with raising a family. Consequently, Irish mothers are left with less time in which to earn outside the home. Moreover, because career progression works on the basis of momentum, women who take breaks from work to have children are less likely to reach the highest echelons of the workforce – thus exacerbating the gender pay gap at senior levels.

Lughan Deane

You can download the paper here.