Amendments Nos. 5 to 10, inclusive, provide for the addition of a range of factors to an already extensive list that the commission is required to take into account when making a recommendation. I thank Deputy Ellis for his contribution on those amendments in the name of Deputy Toíbín. I assure members that I and my Government colleagues have given significant consideration to the criteria as set out in the Bill. Many of them have stood the test of time in that they were previously incorporated in national minimum wage legislation dating back to 2000. They provide a balanced suite of provisions against which any recommendation must be balanced and considered. The addition of a wide-ranging list of factors as presented in amendments Nos. 5 to 10, inclusive, would probably make it virtually impossible for any commission of any nature to undertake the level of analysis required to produce an agreed recommendation every year, or perhaps, to meet the needs we have set down in legislation to arrive at a recommendation to the Government by a set date each year. It is also my view that some of the additional factors proposed are better addressed and may be better seen through the prism of the suite of industrial relations legislation I have brought forward and which we hope will be enacted soon and through the wider decent work agenda that I am pursuing.
On the issue of zero and low-hours contracts which was a component of one of the amendments, we are introducing collective bargaining legislation and the re-introduction of a system of registered employment agreements and a new mechanism providing for sectoral employment orders. I have commissioned the University of Limerick to undertake a very significant study into the prevalence and extent of zero and low-hours contracts. We are examining a range of different areas and we will act on the recommendations of the report on zero and low-hours contracts by the University of Limerick. We will study the report very carefully and where there are gaps, we will be anxious to ensure that those gaps are filled. The commission is obliged to consider changes in income distribution when making a recommendation to the Minister. Such a recommendation is designed to assist as many low paid workers as is reasonably practicable and to set a rate that is fair and reasonable. Previous references to changes in earnings have served us well and I do not consider it necessary to refer specifically to median earnings changes or proportions above or below particular proportions of median earnings.
There is very significant expertise available on and to the Low Pay Commission to properly interpret changes in earnings data to which it must have due regard when putting forward its recommendation.
As regards comparisons with Northern Ireland or any other jurisdiction that has a national minimum wage, these are compared by looking at the absolute values but also having regarding to purchasing power parities. Again, I believe the commission has significant and sufficient expertise available to it to make these distinctions and it would not be appropriate to specifically require the Low Pay Commission, on an annual basis, to analyse different welfare supports, health care provision, child care and social housing across various jurisdictions.
Fair wages should never be sacrificed for the creation of jobs that are exploitative and unsustainable. That is why section 4 sets very clear objectives for the national minimum wage and in this regard, the commission will be obliged to ensure that any recommendations it makes should ensure that the minimum wage will be set at a rate that is both fair and sustainable.
In relation to the promotion of gender equality, it is important to note that the national minimum wage applies to all workers, irrespective of gender. As such, it is the epitome of a measure that eliminates gender inequality in its application. Accordingly, I cannot accept amendments Nos. 2 to 10, inclusive.