I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
I thank all parties and Independents for facilitating the passage of all Stages of this Bill through the other House. It is important legislation which has garnered strong support from across all parties. I hope we can see the Bill pass in the Dáil speedily so it can become law and make a difference in our society. The Government has spoken about its support for the core objectives of our legislation. We are open to any amendments the Government or anybody else wishes to table to improve on the work that we have brought forward.
Every country has a gender pay gap and in every case we have looked at, women are paid less than men. There are comprehensive statistics from across the OECD relating to that. That is a fact but does not mean that it is acceptable, much less inevitable. Equal pay for equal work is a basic principle of equality and of human rights. Ireland has made progress on this issue. We had a massive pay gap between men and women which is shown in the statistics from the 1940s through to the 1970s. It has gradually declined since more progressive legislation began to be introduced after we joined the European Economic Community. It is no surprise that when there was a marriage bar in the Civil Service and public service, there was an enormous gender pay gap. That was removed in 1973 and from that time, women's average earnings have increased.
The latest EUROSTAT figures measure Ireland's gender pay gap at 13.9% whereas the OECD has it at 10.6%. There are different ways to precisely measure the gender pay gap. We have to be careful to be accurate about which measuring stick we are using and what the basis of our measurement is. EUROSTAT measures the difference between the average gross hourly earnings of male and female employees as a percentage of male gross earnings. The OECD measures the difference between the median average earnings of men and women relative to median earnings of men. Most people are already lost with those statistics. I will put it as simply as I can. If men are paid €100 on average, women doing the same job are paid €86.89. That is a much clearer and more succinct formulation. It adds up to a very significant difference with implications not only for the lifetime of work but for pension purposes in retirement as well as income throughout a person's working life.
The Acting Cathaoirleach will be glad to know I do not intend to discuss the ins and outs of the statistics but I want to focus on the substantive issue. It is clear that there is still a gender pay gap which is real and manifest in our society and country. On average, women are paid significantly less than men. It is positive that Ireland is doing better than many countries. It is better than the EU average and the OECD average but that is not a reason to be complacent. A number of countries are doing much better than us, such as Belgium, Italy and Romania. We see from statistics that gender pay equality is greater among younger employees which probably does not come as a major shock or surprise. I am glad to say that gender pay equality is higher in the public sector than in the private sector. The worst gender pay inequality is in financial services and the insurance industry.
There are a number of explanations for the gender pay gap. Women and men play different roles throughout their lives with regard to rearing a family. That is the normal reason given. Women take time out for parenting and that often reduces women's earnings, more often than men's. There is a difference in the professions that men and women are prevalent in. More women are in healthcare and teaching, with fewer in engineering and finance. There are unanswered questions too. We do not know enough about gender pay differences in this economy. We do not know, though we might suspect, that bonus payments to men, not least in those male-dominated professions and financial services, are greater than those received by women. We want to know the truth and that is at the heart of this legislation. We want to improve information about gender pay inequality so we can better understand and address the reasons for it, that would permit us, where necessary, to take remedial action to eliminate gender inequality. We want to increase transparency about gender pay inequality throughout the economy. That will raise public awareness on this very real, important equality issue and create pressure in society for enterprises to improve their own performance. We do not have to look beyond, for example, the national broadcaster here or the BBC in Britain. We had transparency and people were aghast to find women working side by side with colleagues, doing the same job and suddenly finding that there were manifest differences in the rates of pay for no explainable reason at all.
Unequal pay for women is clearly an issue of equality and human rights, as I have said. That is why we envisage a central role for the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission in our legislation. We propose that it draws up a scheme for employers to publish their rates of pay by gender. This will apply to medium and large employers which employ 50 or more workers. A requirement will not be placed on the vast majority of small enterprises to comply with this legislation although we would welcome and encourage their voluntary compliance and best practice to have this sort of reporting across the economy. In the Bill, we have specified the types of employer and employee affected by the proposed scheme alongside some minimum requirements on the type of information that we will require to be published. This will include the difference between the average hourly rate of pay of male employees and female employees using both the arithmetic average and the median, or middle value, average. Publication will also have to include bonus pay and refer to part-time versus full-time workers. With regard to enforcement, we envisage fines for companies that do not meet their obligations under the legislation. Additionally, larger employers with more than 100 workers which do not meet their obligations would have the name of their company published by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.
This is not complex legislation. It is not an onerous demand on employers. There is a lot of evidence that our graduates are keenly aware of equality issues and the disparity in pay. Many enterprises will put their equality and diversity policies front and centre to attract the best employees of whatever gender.
This is a positive progressive direction in which our society is moving and our legislation is designed to nudge those employers who are laggards in this regard on the path to putting their house in order.
Our society offers our children and young people great opportunities. Women and men are entering into professions that did not even exist ten or 15 years ago. Women are excelling in science, engineering and technology in our universities and in the workplace. Women are active in every sector of our economy, although not in equal numbers to men in every sector. However, gender inequalities persist. Our legislation comes down to basic questions. Would parents want their sons and daughters to have access to any job available to the opposite gender? Would they want them to have the same rates of pay and access to the same bonuses as any other man or woman doing the same work of the same value? Would they want them to have the same career expectations in terms of promotion and advancement? The Labour Party has no doubt the answer to all these questions throughout Ireland will be a resounding "Yes". This is why it is important that the Bill becomes law at the first opportunity, to advance these important principles that I believe are shared throughout the House. I ask colleagues to support the Bill.