Before we begin, I should like to remind Senators of the agreement on the time limit on speakers on motions. The mover of the motion has 30 minutes and other speakers have 20 minutes.
Commission on the Status of Women: Motion.
That Seanad Éireann notes the Report of the Commission on the Status of Women, December, 1972.
I move this motion with real pleasure because I regard this report as the most important social document in recent Irish history. I should like to welcome the Taoiseach to the Seanad to take part in this debate. It is the first time that I can remember the Taoiseach of the time coming into the Seanad. In doing so he pays tribute to the social significance of the report and to the immense impact which hopefully it will have on Irish life.
I should also like to pay tribute to those who compiled the report, particularly to those members of the Commission who are here present for the debate. They are worthy of the thanks of both Houses of Parliament and of the Irish people in general. They have brought out a report in a remarkably short space of time which is very comprehensive, very well balanced and extraordinarily readable. This last characteristic is not one that one finds very often in reports of this nature.
I am mentioning all these nice things because I will inevitably voice some criticisms later on. I welcome the fact that the Seanad has been given an opportunity to debate this report. We have much more time in this House; we have a very representative body of people here and we will be fulfilling a very important function if we can take the important reports that come out, debate them fully and ask for clarification and for an indication of Government action on specific points. Inevitably with a report of this nature, each Senator must choose a particular aspect of the report because of the limited amount of time available to debate it. I shall leave to Senator Horgan the duty of replying to this debate in order to allow as many Senators as possible to take part, so that I shall not be speaking again on the subject.
First of all, I should like to look briefly at the underlying factors which the report has examined in order to explain the status quo, the way in which they examined the stereotyped role assigned to women and the way in which definite and desperate roles have been given to the male and female sexes. In this respect I think too much emphasis was placed on married women. The report is not sufficiently alert to the fact that these sex roles, as they have been outlined, relate really to the position of married women and that there was not a sufficient analysis of the position of single women in Ireland who are not involved in the home environment in the same way and yet who have been so completely discriminated against. They have been unable and in certain cases unwilling to play their full part in Irish life. This direction of the report towards married women should not be allowed to take away from the fact that the position of single women has in many cases been more openly discriminatory and more openly limited than that of married women.
Another underlying factor which the report points to is the limited prospective of the average girl leaving school. She sees her future life in terms of a very short span of gainful employment prior to marriage. She is not well motivated, she is not thinking of promotion or of a future career. Having regarded this as one of the underlying factors, one would like to have seen more emphasis on the whole role of education. There is reference, I shall be more specific later, to education but I believe it is fundamental to a change of the whole attitude and regard for the part which citizens, male or female, play in the country. Here I am thinking in particular of the teaching of civics in education. I do not mean civics in the narrow sense of a subject taught for an hour or two per week. I mean the emphasis on education for social living which has to penetrate through all education and also the equality of opportunity in choice of subjects.
Here the report documents very well the fact that science or higher mathematics are not subjects found in girls' schools in the same way as boys' schools. It gives a rather tentative push to the idea of co-education. I think it should have gone much further.
Women's organisations involved in education are much more positively in favour of co-education than comes through in the text of the report. The reasons for wanting co-education are to get away from this limited perspective of the separate schooling, the limited choice of subjects and the limited career guidance which girls get. The question of education is fundamental to a change in our attitudes.
The report also points to the negative attitude of male management towards investing in the training of women and their promotion. I shall return to the question of training and retraining because one of the vital matters which must be given priority is the retraining of married women who have spent some years of their lives bringing up young children and who are still relatively young and active and would like to get back into the mainstream of employment and fulfil themselves as individuals but who are given no assistance in this matter.
Finally, as an underlying factor the report points to the concept of the fulltime housewife at home with the children as being the model that little girls are brought up with: they look at this in books and see it in films. This is the ideal role for a woman. It is necessary that at the very basic level of education, of films and advertising, we have a broader concept of the role of women. They are not just people who bring up children.
Here we come to a more radical concept of family life, particularly in Ireland, than the report was prepared to envisage. The report does not sufficiently emphasise that family life is a shared experience, that domestic responsibilities are shared between two people. Unless we can, at least for a while, even artificially create opportunities for more sharing of domestic responsibilities and more equality of opportunity to go outside the home if either spouse so wishes, we will not get very far from the stereotyped reactions of people living in this country. We may make a few legislative changes but we will be failing to get at some of the underlying factors.
I do not propose to deal with the question of equal pay for women because this has been dealt with in an earlier report and some progress has been made in this area. Equality of pay has been set in motion. Earlier this afternoon we had a Bill removing the marriage bar in a limited area of the Civil Service—the Government or State services—and the whole emphasis must be on removing existing discriminations as well as taking more positive action to provide the opportunities and to awake the motivation to provide the prospectives. On that point we must think in terms of positive legislation.
With the Taoiseach present I should be interested to know to what extent the Government have positive plans for legislation. To what extent has he contemplated an Act to provide for equal pay in private employment in the sense of the Equal Pay Act, 1970, in England, and still further to what extent has he conceived legislation equivalent to the Anti-Discrimination Act which was recently passed in that country? I refer to British legislation not because we must slavishly follow them but because we can learn from a country which has gone much further in removing discriminations of a legal nature against women.
I am very interested in the fact that in this Anti-Discrimination Bill passed in England the definition of "discrimination" is very simple—it simply means to discriminate on the grounds of sex, and reference to discrimination should be construed accordingly. It prevents discrimination in employment on that ground quite clearly and it prevents advertising which discriminates. This point was made by Senator Yeats earlier in relation to the Civil Service (Employment of Married Women) Bill. It does not meet a very important aspect of the employment scene, that is, the way in which jobs can be advertised which either expressly or implicity requires a male response and which discriminates against women, or where the salary scales are different.
The interesting thing about the English Act is the mechanism of the Anti-Discrimination Board which has been set up. It provides that half the members of the board shall be women. This is not sufficiently evident in the recommendations of the Report of the Commission on the Status of Women.
In the Irish context they suggest that the Labour Court be expanded to be a mechanism for providing placement and being the central machinery in relation to righting the position of women. They note that at the moment there are no female members of the Labour Court. There are five male members. They recommend that if the Minister is to enlarge the Labour Court by a further two appointments one of these at least should be a woman. Considering the imbalance that has to be adjusted, I find that a very half-hearted demand. Half the Labour Court or half of those involved in this particular area ought to be women straight off, and no compromise. I would welcome the reaction of the Taoiseach to this proposal.
When one makes an argument about putting women in positions it is in fact a rather artificial one. I am the first to see just how artificial it is. Why should a woman be put in just because she is a woman? It is at the same time the sort of artificial mechanism which is necessary to redress the imbalance of 50 years. It is necessary to redress the fact that there are no women in so many aspects of Irish life. There are no women judges, very few women in top managerial posts, very few women in this House and comparatively fewer in the other House.
Here I may relate my direct criticism to the fact that just after this report came out the Taoiseach nominated 11 men to the Seanad. He may say he nominated citizens to represent citizens and to play their role in legislation. He should have used that opportunity artificially to remove an imbalance which has been allowed to be created during the years in our system. I am not saying this is justifiable on all counts. I am saying it is artificial but that it is extremely important. It is important that we create a balance in the State-sponsored bodies, in the commissions which are set up and above all in whichever mechanism we use to implement the recommendations of this report. If the Labour Court are to be the mechanism, that is the place to start the creation of a balance.
In passing, I should like to refer very briefly to the paragraphs on women in employment. They are extremely interesting because they tried to go past the surface. They looked at the fact that very often there are "female only" and "male only" jobs, particularly in clerical posts. The "female only" have a structure of promotion which is entirely limited. You go from junior typist to senior typist to personal secretary, stop. A male youth may enter at the same age and roughly the same scale and can become the managing director. There is quite a different approach to male jobs and female jobs in that sort of appointment.
Also the report has managed to compress very well the attitudes of management, their distrust of female employment because there is too large a turnover, because they are not well motivated, because they are not really ambitious to get on and at the same time they have interviewed a number of girls who would have liked more responsibility. It seems that a lack of training facilities and an attempt to create that very motivation is absent in Irish management.
Speaking on the subject of Irish management, we removed the marriage bar from the State and Government Civil Service this afternoon and I should like to have more information on which large international companies dismiss women on marriage. I have knowledge of two or three who adapt to Irish conditions and refuse to employ married women who have been holding down jobs in this country. These companies and their practices should be made known. I hope public reaction will be that this is unfair and discriminatory against women.
I want to touch briefly on another very important aspect of creating this equality of opportunity, that is, the whole question of maternity leave. Here, as in so many other areas of the report, we fail very badly as a country to ratify international conventions. We have not ratified any of the International Labour Conventions which relate to the position of the real equality of women. We are, I think, the only Common Market country which has not ratified these conventions. In relation to maternity leave, we failed to ratify ILO Convention No. 103 on maternity protection. We failed to finally ratify the United Nations International Convention on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights, 1966. We signed the European Social Charter in 1961 but we carefully did not adhere to the provisions which would provide for the absolutely necessary mechanism to allow married women equality of opportunity in seeking employment.
The recommendations of the report are very good in the respect that there must be the right to maternity leave, that it must be for a fixed period of time and that there must be the right to re-enter the job. As the report rightly points out, companies which pride themselves on not operating a marriage bar operate a maternity bar—on the first sign of pregnancy you are out and there is no right to return to your job and no attempt to create that right. The recommendations of the Commission in that respect are very well worth the consideration of the House.
On the question of day-care for children, again, I would go further than the general tenor of the recommendations of the report. It is essential, if we are to create equality of opportunity and have the necessary mobility which the life-style in modern Ireland demands, that positive steps are taken here. Where younger women are getting married and having fewer children over a smaller span and wanting not for any economic reasons very often but for psychological reasons to continue in employment either part-time or to return as quickly as possible when the children have grown up, we must provide day-care for the children, both crêches and nurseries. The report recommends, and this is a very good practical recommendation, that in relation to housing schemes planning permission should be refused on the grounds that crêches were not built into the plan. We must go further and provide that any factory which employs a fair number of female employees would be refused planning permission for a new plant unless there were day-care facilities for children.
The report refers to the question of standards in our pre-school playgroups. Here again, the Commission have not sufficiently argued the absolute necessity for some legislation and regulation. The Irish Pre-school Playgroups Association have made this point extremely well. They have recently been in contact with the Ministers for Health and Education on the matter. Basically, what they seek, and this would require legislation, is the registration of playgroups in order to ensure adequate standards of safety, health and quality of care for the children in them. They seek the provision of training courses for playgroup supervisors and here the Department of Education have a particular responsibility to provide training for these supervisors.
Remember, these are very young children who are being supervised and it requires training, even for the mother or the woman, whoever it is, who is naturally good with children and who is in charge of a number of children in a play school. The employment of an experienced person is necessary to act as a supervisor with the support of voluntary community workers. At the moment, the Pre-school Playgroup Association perform an ad hoc service, a very important voluntary service and they must have the back-up of legislation providing for registration and standards.
I now move on to an area which I feel must be singled out of this very comprehensive report: that dealing with the question of the family life, marriage counselling and family planning. Anybody involved in the FLAC centres or in voluntary social work in the country will be aware that we have in Ireland no legal divorce but we have a very real problem of breakdown of marriage.
We have a very large number of Irish marriages breaking down. We have people getting married at a very early age. On the whole, we have a marked absence of any marriage counselling. We do not provide advisory services to young people who are committing themselves to a life together. We do not provide them with economic, or sexual advice or with any sort of possibility of help in coping with their problems. The report has shown that the result of this situation is a high incidence of breakdown of marriage without a legal release at the end. I am not getting involved now in the divorce argument. I am arguing the absolute necessity for a marked increase in marriage counselling.
I am also, I hope, trying to put an end to this bogey in relation to family planning—that there is a case before the courts so therefore we cannot have legislation. This is absolute nonsense, as the Taoiseach, who is a lawyer, will appreciate. It is not necessary for the Legislature to wait the outcome of a case. Otherwise we could never have any legislation in relation to the landlord and tenants laws, because there are always landlord and tenant cases before the courts. There are many other examples. Mr. Justice O'Keeffe of the High Court in the particular case said that although he did not find the provision unconstitutional this did not prevent the Legislature acting on it. That case was well over a year ago, and the appropriate thing to do would be for the Legislature to assume its responsibility and change the law relating to family planning.
I am glad to see that the argument has been well made by the Commission on the Status of Women, by the health boards, doctors and almost every avenue of responsible opinion. We should not be asked to wait indefinitely on the excuse that there is a High Court case at hearing. That is not a real excuse. It is just an attempt to postpone what is regarded as a knotty issue.
I am glad the report placed such emphasis on the position of widows. This may be because widows have made such strong efforts to be advocates in their own cause. The Association of Irish Widows have performed a remarkable task in bringing it home to the Irish people what the plight of widows is. The practical suggestions in this report should be implemented forthwith. The report shows that it is very often the first six months which is the most shattering and economically the most disastrous. The proposals contained in the report go a long way to meet what I honestly think is a constitutional duty. In Article 41, section 2, subsection 2 of the Constitution, there is a positive duty on the State:
The State shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home.
Widows are mothers twice over. They are forced by economic necessity— the proportion of widows in comparison to the proportion of married women working is stunning—to go out to work to the detriment of their duties in the home. The duties in the home they have to perform on their own. If we have to have priorities in social legislation, we have a constitutional imprimatur for putting widows extremely high on that list of priorities and in giving them active assistance, especially during the first six months. We should not be penny pinching by writing off one pension right against another. We must provide the sort of guidance and information which will help them to cope with legal, financial and social problems which they meet disastrously suddenly, of which they have had no prior warning or experience, and for which they have had no training.
The other area where I believe again there is a very substantial, a very widespread demand for reform is in relation to the question of taxation. We are one of the very few countries left where there is this anomaly of the husband and wife being taxed on the single income, the husband's income, and I should like, in fact, in a lighthearted way, to see that challenged constitutionally. It surely cannot be equal treatment of people that the poor husband has to pay tax on his wife's income as well as his own and that the married couple are victimised accordingly. They should be taxed separately and the allowances should be much more realistic in modern terms.
What is happening—I do not think the report really refers to this—and it is bound to happen at a social level among young people of 18, 19 and 20 years of age, is that they are not marrying until, as the euphemism is, they "have to", until there is a baby on the way, simply because by living together and working together they are financially so markedly better off that it does not pay them. They cannot afford to get married. This is a very short-sighted and very negative policy. Rather than encouraging the institution of marriage, encouraging people to cement their love in a married relationship, on the contrary we discourage them—in fact we deter them—by the economic penalties of getting married.
I said I would return to the question of education because I believe this is fundamental to the whole question of changing attitudes. If the horizons of the women in this country are to be broadened and if the prejudices of the men in this country are to be gradually diminished then it must be done by education together, by a lack of this artificial separateness of roles. In many ways women are to blame for the fact that they are taught to have a different, more limited role in life. They have not, up until now, demanded an equal opportunity, demanded the right to do what they wish. Women have been far too ready, I believe, in public life, in whatever organisations they are in, to talk about women's subjects. I think that this concept of a "woman's subject" or something that a woman has a view on is a very, very limiting and a very dangerous one.
For instance, in parliamentary life or any other organisation life there is no such thing as a "woman's subject". Women, as citizens, have or ought to have, an interest in, certainly have responsibility for and ought to participate in the whole range of activity. This cannot really come to the surface under the present system because the present system is built on a separateness based on what is regarded as a difference. The domestic responsibilities and chores are regarded as almost entirely the work of the woman. It is regarded as effeminate for a man to know much about the running of a home. This is completely, in my view, distorting and limited.
The economic lifestyle of the country must be based not on consideration of profit or considerations of convenience to business but considerations of the lifestyle of the persons living in it. If there is a realisation that it would be better that both parties in a marriage, if they wish—and I say this because I do not want to be misunderstood as making it compulsory that every married woman must have a job; I am not saying that at all—and if they necessarily have to work part-time and share responsibilities, share the keeping-together and the running of a home environment, then the economic structure should reflect it. We should have far more opportunities of part-time work, far more mobility and far more equality of pay for work done so that there can be a sharing, so that there can be on outlet.
This completely different attitude and completely different emphasis cannot come under the present educational system which, as I say, is so fixed on a concept of separate roles of men and women which have been rendered obsolete by the economic and social circumstances in which we live at the end of this 20th century and which are becoming increasingly frustrating for those who are limited within them. Therefore, I come back to this question of education because I believe it is fundamental to the whole possibility of changing the position of women in this country for the better. I have pleasure in proposing this motion and I await with interest the comments of the Taoiseach on the specific matters put to him.
Might I ask the guidance of the Chair before speaking on this? As I understand the situation, Senator Robinson has delegated the right of reply to me.
As you wish.
May I speak now and then have the right to wind up?
I am afraid not.
In that case, I shall formally second the motion at this stage and reserve my speech for winding up.
Is mian liom fáilte a chur roimh an dtuarascáil seo ar staid na mban sa tír seo. Molaim go h-ard an fhoireann a dhein an scrúdú agus an taighde. Dheineadar sár-obair ach chomh maith leis sin chuireadar os ár gcóir 48 moltaí agus 18 comhairlí. Chuireadar os ár gcóir leis an costas. San am gcéana thaispéanadar ina lán áiteanna chonas cur cuchu.
Is dóigh liom gur tuarascáil anchiallmhar ar fad í agus tá an-áthas orm gur ghlac an 13 daoine a bhí ar an gCoimisiúin leis d'aon guth.
The Commission on the Status of Women has given us a report of which we may be justly proud. As Senator Mary Robinson has said, it is a most comprehensive report. It deals with the injustices under which women have laboured for so long. As she also has said, it may well be a blueprint for major social legislation in this country. It has given us 48 recommendations and 18 suggestions and, not only that, but it has in a very practical manner costed what these would amount to and given us a good idea how we should tackle the many injustices under which the women of this country suffer.
Senator Robinson has also said there is no point in our going into detail in regard to the many grievances. It is enough to say that they range from unequal pay for women, the marriage ban, injustices in social welfare, injustices in taxation, injustices and discrimination in law, in public life and, indeed, in politics. At this stage it is only right that we should compliment our former Minister for Finance, Deputy Haughey, who set up this Commission. Were it not for the fact that he did not recognise that there were many areas of discrimination, he would not have done this. We compliment him on having done so. He asked this Commission to identify the areas in which there was discrimination and he asked them to outline ways and means of tackling this.
We, as women, are very proud of the way that this has been dealt with in the report. In 1971 we had an interim report on equal pay and the Fianna Fáil Government, and Deputy Colley, the Minister for Finance at the time, accepted this in principle pending the final report. I am glad that he made a start in closing the pay gap in the Civil Service and I am glad that our present Minister for Finance today has given us another advance by the abolition of the marriage ban in the Civil Service and in the public service.
Today we had a warning when reference was made to married women entering employment. I asked people not to be too perturbed and said that there would not be such a mad rush of married women into jobs as one might think. This has been proved on the Continent and in Britain where there are far more jobs available. There should be more pressure in the field of promotion. Senator Yeats referred to this when he stated that on different boards there should be at least fifty-fifty female.
Women in the field of completely female employment often do not get a living wage and there are other conditions under which they work which should be examined more thoroughly. The report has dealt at length with the problem of unmarried mothers and widows. We should be equally solicitous about our married mothers. Do married women get a fair share of the husbands' pay packet? Do many of them know what their husbands earn? Must our women always be tied to the kitchen sink with no provision made for leisure while the men have their nights out? In several areas we need a charter of rights for married women and children.
Senator Robinson referred to some people going to work through economic necessity. These women have our sympathy and in many cases they take menial jobs and allow an elderly relative or an unpaid neighbour to look after the children. These women would much prefer to be at home looking after their children. Those who go to work by choice are for the most part in the professional class, such as teachers, nurses, doctors, solicitors. Teachers come off best as their hours finish at a time when they can pay full attention to their families. Nurses can stagger their working hours so that the family will not suffer. All married women who take work are very solicitous for their families. In rural areas 90 per cent of the married women will never work as they prefer to stay at home and look after their families. It takes an exceptional woman to have the dual role of looking after a family and keep a job. Most men would prefer to have their wives looking after the home and they would be prepared to work overtime so that their wives through economic necessity would not have to take jobs. It may not always be through economic necessity but it could be for psychological reasons that the wife prefers to work outside the home.
Senator Robinson has referred to the changing pattern of which we are all aware. People are getting married at an early age and the family is reared while the mother is still young and it is only right, if she wishes, that she should take up employment. At that stage in particular there should be retraining courses for those taking up the same jobs or perhaps qualifying for a different job.
Chapter 10 deals with education for household management. This is a very important chapter. This education is necessary whether a woman goes to work or stays at home. Far too many women are entering married life without realising the responsibility of marriage and too many are unprepared in the household management area and, as Senator Robinson has stated, they have had no marriage counselling. Some women regard housework as having such a low status, as is stated in the report, that many of them boast they cannot boil an egg.
I have been advocating for a long while that there should be courses on home-making, such as proper cooking, care and management of children and proper balancing of the household budget. I regard this job as far more specialised than tending machines or being seated at a typewriter. I have advocated there should be diploma courses for household management and, on getting this diploma, a women should be classed as professional. A diploma in household management is an important as a diploma in creamery management or in rural science. Senator Robinson spoke about home economics and this should be compulsory in every primary and post-primary school. The boys should participate in this. In later life, when they marry, they will be aware of the difficulties of managing a house and such large numbers of our future wives will not have to manage on a shoestring.
Chapter 8 deals with women in politics. In the first sentence it states that very few people or organisations made representations to the Commission. That speaks for itself, and if women are missing in politics and in public life they have only themselves to blame. While the women in the Dáil at present are as good as any of the men, they have come there mainly because their families have had previous connections with politics. When these women decide to leave politics they will not be replaced by other women. The same is true of the Seanad. We have seen the last of women in the Seanad as well as the Dáil. The only two new women's faces we can look forward to seeing here will result from the nominations by the Taoiseach and the trade union movement. I agree with Senator Robinson and I deplore the fact that the Taoiseach did not nominate at least a few women amongst his 11. But for the stand taken by Fianna Fáil as regards the Leas-Chathaoirleach, we would not have the pleasure of having a woman in the Chair as we continue this debate.
Many years ago I spoke to the women in Cork University and I implored them to enter the party of their choice. I fear my advice fell on deaf ears. Why are women so lacking in our political organisations? For too long politics has been the domain of men. The women are slow to enter a purely male domain and it is difficult for a wife to be at a meeting on the same night as her husband. There are thousands of single women who are not entering the political parties. In the INTO the women are sixty-forty. This organisation have been there for at least 100 years and there have been about four women presidents in the INTO. How many women are there on the executive of the INTO? I do not know what the figures are for the trade union movement, but I reprimand the women of Ireland for not wishing to take on responsibility in any of those fields.
The report states that of the ten State boards there are 59 members and only one woman amongst that number. In this area we cannot blame the women themselves. We hope the Government and future governments will ensure that when boards are being set up a fair number of women are nominated. An advice bureau has been recommended, and I think it is a very good idea. Deputy Molloy advocated this in his reform of local government.
As a follow-up it would be well if some research were undertaken to find out what has been the result in countries where far more women go to work than in Ireland. In America most married women take up employment after marriage. Would it be possible for us to find out if this has interfered with family life? Has it in any way been responsible for the great unrest among young people today in the United States? Some research in that field might be a useful exercise.
Is dóigh liom go bhfuil an méid atá le rá agam ráite. Tríd is tríd, is iontach an tuarascáil í seo. Molaim arís an fhoireann a dhein an obair agus tá súil agam go ndéanfar beart dá réir. Ach caithimid beith ciallmhar agus a thuiscint gur fada, acrannach an bóthar atá roimh an Rialtas seo nó aon Rialtas eile chun na moltaí atá sa tuarascáil seo a chur i bhfeidhm.
I welcome the report and I welcome the opportunity given to us by Senator Robinson to comment on it. In dealing with this present development in Ireland of a new consciousness of the rights of women—certainly long overdue, as Senator Robinson made clear—I will try to confine myself to a limited part of the report and of its implications. It is a pity that we are limited by time because this is a fascinating document. It is full of wonderful information. It is the source material of very prolonged consideration and comment by Senators, particularly many of the Senators here who have specialist interest in various parts of the life of our society. I would imagine it will be very difficult to confine oneself usefully to the 20 minutes allowed to us.
Without myself being misunderstood in my approach to this matter, I should like to draw the attention of Senators and the Government to a factor which, I think, could be a result of the new freedom of women which we are all hoping to see in our society. I have no reservations at all about the proposals in relation to the rights of women in all aspects of life. All my life I have fought for the elimination of discrimination on religious grounds, on grounds of race and nationality. Sex, is, obviously, just another of the factors which should not be allowed to be used by anybody in discriminating in any aspect of our lives. Please accept that I favour all the proposals made in regard to the establishment of the rights of women equally with men in our society.
The right to work and the right to be free from the kitchen sink is one of the simplifications of the development likely to take place in the aftermath of a report of this kind as the Government get down to deciding how they will bring about this liberalisation of women. In the first instance, I think that the preoccupation with the right to go out to work represents a part of the manipulation which is carried on about the role of women in society. In fact, it appears to me that they are likely to be just as much manipulated by the new emphasis on the right of a woman to work outside the home as they ever have been manipulated into being restricted to being simply mothers in a family. That manipulation goes on. Our cultural pressures have lead to the general belief that a girl must marry and having married must have children, in most cases large families, and that in some way or other the girl who did not marry and the girl who married and did not have children was a lesser person.
These are all part of the cultural pressures which many women are beginning to reject now and, I think, correctly reject for reasons I hope to deal with. We are now coming to a situation which we recognise: the man in his independent role, the woman in her independent role. I should like to bring in the third person, that is the mother, in her position as the person who is given the responsibility of rearing a child. I have already said that I see no reason whatever for any differentiation between the man and the woman in the rights, freedoms and liberties that they should have in our society but I believe that, where the man or the woman or both become parents, a totally new situation arises. The right of a man or a woman to go out and work in modern industrial society is something which I agree with but I am astonished that women really want to go out and work in modern industrial society. Clearly, modern industrial society with mechanisation and automation is not a satisfying role for anybody, man or woman. Women should try to see that fewer men have to go out to the kind of work that most of them go out to in our society.
In my experience I know of only a very tiny percentage of people who work in satisfying jobs. These are mainly people like ourselves who are lucky enough to be professional people, people who are artists, literary people or those who work in creative activities of one kind or another but the vast majority of jobs done by the majority of people in our society should not be undertaken by either men or women. Ideally, they will not be done by either men or women as time goes on and as the machines take over and a handful of minders will watch the machines. We will then find ourselves being presented with the challenge of leisure for men and women, which is the correct challenge. In my view we were put in this world to enjoy ourselves. Work is for horses. The majority of work done by people is not for persons with any reasonable standard of intellectual ability.
I do not accept the puritanical concept of labore est orare. I do not accept that at all. In the professional side of my life, psychiatry, one of the things that I find most people running away from is the kind of work most of them have to do. I am sorry that women have become preoccupied with the idea of wanting to go out and do most of the jobs that men do. To that extent they are being manipulated to fall in with the needs of a society which is going through the process of industrialisation. It has happened in the Socialist countries. It has happened in the Eastern European countries. It has happened in Britain. It has happened in the United States. The general result of that where the family is concerned has probably been retrograde.
I have to speak very carefully when talking about the family because as everybody knows its values and usefulness in the society is very much under question at the present time. As a result, I suppose, of my own cultural pressures, I still believe that there are certain virtues in the family and that these are reduced or weakened by the need of a woman going out to work and of the man going out to work excessively on overtime, week-end work, et cetera. I accept that the man and the woman have equal rights to work in industries or factories, which in my view is a most objectionable way of spending one's time, but I am then concerned with the rather simplistic approach of the people who favour this development in our society in regard to the position of the mother.
The role of the mother is greatly undervalued. I sound very old-fashioned, no doubt, in speaking like this; but I suppose one deals with so much of the end-product of defective environmental factors which cause emotional stress of one kind or another that it becomes a rather more acute problem to me, simply because of my profession, than it might to other people. I am concerned naturally with the belief of the importance in the whole process of personality formation, the process of the psychosexual development of the individual, the influences which determine the way in which the contented individual will develop in society. If we are right about the value of the family, as laid down in our Constitution and in that excellent motion of the United Nations referred to in the report of the Commission, and if we believe that the father, the mother and the child—the nucleus family—are the ideal preconditions to the creation of the balanced end-product—the happy child, happy young person or happy adult—then we are not being sufficiently sensitive to the damage which we are likely to cause as a result of removing the child from the mother, which we do by encouraging the mother to go out to work.
Everybody knows that the most important thing in the young child's life is the security and love of the parents, particularly the love of the mother, the security of knowing that that love is a constant thing and that it will not be deprived of that love. Deprivation of that love is a very traumatic experience for a child. The extreme case of this, as you all know, is the institutional child who lives practically without love. The effects from the intellectual point of view are frequently mental retardation. The child simply does not develop at all because of lack of love.
The institutional child, usually an illegitimate child, is not the only example of this deprivation of love, or emotionally deprived child who becomes an anxious or disturbed child. You have the wealthy professional-class mother who decides to hand the child over to the nanny or to the preschool group or to somebody else. Why should she do this? Why should she be permitted to do this? Why does she have the child? We are now in a period, fortunately, when the lady can decide that she wishes to have a child. Whether one accepts it or not, it happens to be true now. It seems to me that it represents a very ignorant—and I am using a crude word—misunderstanding of the role of the mother to her children if she thinks that having a baby is just like a cow dropping a calf in a field and going away and leaving it for somebody else to rear. I regret that this is very common amongst both what are called the educated classes as well as what would be called the illiterate or uneducated classes. It is possibly less so amongst the uneducated classes. They are more conscious of their mother-role in society.
This is known to be a very important factor in determining the happiness of the child. I do not think that there is any role of men or women which transcends in importance the role of a mother and father to their child. Anybody who tells me that a lady who goes out putting television or radio sets together, or helping to operate a production line faster or slower, and puts that in importance before her responsibility for moulding the attitudes, values, standards and outlooks of her children simply has no idea of her role as a mother and no idea of the responsibility of individuals to children.
My difficulty of course is that in taking this view I must face the fact that the majority of people, particularly women who decide that they want to be mothers and want to be career people as well or professional people, psychologists, psychiatrists, journalists, et cetera, who rationalise their own decision that they want to be both of these things and for that reason help to control and mould the minds of other women and encourage them to do the same as themselves, in that way they are to some extent dealing with their own guilt feelings. I do not think there is any doubt in the world that children miss the working mother. The working mother is out when they come home. It is becoming clearer and clearer now, particularly in Great Britain, the United States and elsewhere, that these tend to become the delinquent or unhappy children. In the extreme case they become the psychopathic children. It is particularly sad that this uncomprehending understanding of their role by women should be becoming so much more common than it has been in the past.
Women seem to be reluctant to accept that there are many women who simply do not have a maternal instinct and should not have children at all. They seem, however, to give into the cultural pressures, which say that if they are not married they are lesser people and if they are married and have no children they are lesser people, instead of resisting them and saying "I do not want a child." One of the commonest problems of the anxious mother in my working-class practice is the fear of the next pregnancy. Recently, in Britain, where there is family planning, a third of the children born were unplanned, and a half of that one-third were unwanted. Personally, I would put the figure of unwanted children in Ireland very much higher than that.
The women fail, first of all, to make up their minds as to the role they wish to follow as women. A woman can follow any career she wishes, work in mines, dig drains, work on the production belt, fly transatlantic jets, but once a mother has a child she has a role. There is no other role more important. The State should make it possible for her, particularly the widow, as Senator Robinson said, to see that she gives to that child the optimum time so that the child gets the best possible chance of growing up into adolescence and adulthood as a reasonably contented human being.
I regret the Senator has only two minutes left.
Thank you. For this reason, education, as Senator Robinson said, and particularly co-education, plays a very important part. Recently, I heard one lady saying, correctly in my view, that preparation for marriage should start at the age of four years. Co-education should go the whole way through.
The right to family planning is obviously an absolute need, not pressed far hard enough. The right to take the final decision, whether a lady is going to have a child, should be the decision of herself and her husband. But, having had the child, then it must be remembered that, while they both have their individual right, the child also has a right. This right must be protected by all of us, men and women alike.
I want to join with those who have complimented the members of the Commission whose report we are considering and also with those who paid tribute to the Senators who made it possible for us to consider the report. It is a very welcome development for us to discuss reports such as this one. Such a report, with a large volume of facts and statistics, concerning the position of women in our society, is useful insofar as it can become a very easy departure point for legislation.
I just want to make a few simple points concerning the report. I agree with Senator Robinson when she makes the point that we should be discussing the position of women in general rather than having our discussion over-emphasised in the direction of married women. Again, I agree with those Senators who made the point that we are not merely discussing a matter of slotting an equal number of women into the existing framework and structures of society but we should be talking about the dignity of woman. When we are discussing the status of women then we might usefully take as our departure point the possibilities for woman to live in dignity in this island.
My own opinion is that over a long number of years the position of women in Irish society has been one of living in a certain amount of deprivation and a very great degree of degradation. If you examine the statistics regarding the position of widows, they are over-represented in the worst statistics of all, those of poverty, which are statistics of shame and a reflection on our society. There are more widows, on average, than any other group of the population living in conditions of poverty, from those rough descriptions of poverty which we have had in our society.
When we speak about changing the status of women in our society the proper perspective, as I mentioned this morning, is that of examining the rights of people in our society. It is quite ridiculous to speaking about the participation in the industrial work force in the terms of the numbers of women if you suddenly have more women in the industrial sector than you had previously. The question one must ask is whether a woman has equal rights or such rights as will enable her to live in dignity in this society. Then we will have to look at woman's position in terms of the economic structure, her position before the law, control over her own body and her position in the political life of the nation. We have to be honest about the position and enact such legislation as will change the position of woman as quickly as possible or we should not discuss the subject at all.
The report presents us in a very short period of time with a tremendous amount of useful information concerning the position of women economically. It is true that women are discriminated against so far as economic opportunity is concerned, even before the law, in terms of male and female. The rights of the male and female partners in marriage are not equal. The woman's rights are much less than those of the man.
I would take very much the point made by Senator Browne in a sensitive speech concerning the position of the mother. The State should assume responsibility for creating such a context in which adequate family life can be carried on. We unfortunately do not have any very developed accounts of the lives of people who have been institutionalised and spent their early years in institutions. It is, as has been pointed out by other Senators, often a life totally devoid of any love. It is probably in the period of institutionalisation that a child is often stigmatised for life. I am not saying this is a generalisation which can be applied to all institutions or institutionalised children. I suspect that it may be so and I am speaking about people of whose personal experiences I happen to know.
In this respect also I should like to refer to the position of widows. Very often it was economically easier for a widow to put her children into an institution than it was to rear them themselves. I think widows' incomes have been totally inadequate in this country. I know their position has been somewhat improved by recent legislation and recent budgetary measures, but I look forward to their achieving their full eight points with which they have been lobbying legislators.
I wish to say something also about this return to work which we spoke about earlier today. Allowing a woman to return to work is one thing but I think the Minister for Transport and Power, who was standing in for the Minister for Finance, said that he was quite sure that the hardship clause in regard to return to work, to which we made so much reference, would be interpreted liberally.
It is with the greatest respect for the Minister's opinion I suggest that in this case I would welcome reconsideration of that entire clause at some stage. Very often it is easy to allow a woman back to work, and her economic position will be changed or improved. For example, under the new legislation— and I think it was good legislation we passed today—women who would like to avail of that clause of the changed position will be returning to work after the trauma of perhaps some crisis, the loss of a partner, the moving of a partner into incapacitation, as described in the amending legislation today. The conditions under which such a woman returns to work would need to be specified. For example, such a woman could not be and should not be judged as just another employee. She is an employee of a particular kind.
In discussing the status of women in our society we are discussing something of great importance and I am glad the Taoiseach has been able to be with us. We are dealing with something difficult and something which should not be treated in a piecemeal fashion. We live in an authoritarian culture. To my mind, it is authoritarian. This has had its effect on our attitude towards the roles which are appropriate to males and females. For a long time it was considered that the role of woman was narrowly defined. It was restricted to certain tasks. We had certain tasks allocated to the woman and other tasks allocated to the male in the agricultural community, the only difference being that the woman's role was one of unrelieved monotony and boredom whereas that of the male in agricultural production was interrupted by the cycle of agricultural production.
Senator Robinson is quite right to draw some similarity between amending legislation in the case of discrimination in other countries or in cases of racial prejudice, but often you have to take extraordinary measures to make redress for a bad situation. When we discuss the status of women in our society we are discussing ethics: to merely slot women into jobs that are empty of the human satisfaction, into monotony, into boredom, would not materially improve the position of women. But, at least, a discussion on the status of women is a welcome development. It indicates a willingness for the Seanad to discuss the new ethics necessary in our society if that society is to be a dignified place in which to live.
Again, in many cases I agree about the position of women in politics. It is either the fact of one's relatives being involved, as a Senator said, which has propelled many women into politics, or the death of a relation. Even when one looks at a political campaign under way, there are certain jobs which are considered appropriate for the ladies' committee —that grand phrase. In other words, ladies are people who have a natural love of sweeping brushes, cups, saucers, teapots and things like that, and they perform a wonderful and fruitful role in politics. There is scarcely an afterdinner speech in which the ladies own special contribution is not singled out for comment.
That is the kind of nonsense which has kept the contribution of women to Irish politics at such a low level. There are many women who have made distinguished contributions in Irish political history. There are many women who are more than capable of making a distinguished contribution, if they are allowed to do so. We should certainly have more of them involved in public life.
The family is mentioned again and again. There is a matter, which probably does not concern us here, of certain great academic relevance to the future of the family itself, something which is the basis of sociological debate at the present time. Be that as it may, families exist; and I should like to see, if possible, legislation specifying social welfare benefits and rights for the individual. That is that each child born in this country should have certain rights and benefits. Other State activity should also be specified in terms of the individual. We should move towards that.
In the Commission's report and in other documents which were submitted to the Commission there is reference to the position regarding family property. The idea, of course, that a wife would spend all her life in the home and at the same time possess no property is a disgrace. Legislation to allow the wife access to the household effects, in terms of regarding her time in the home as a contribution to family wealth or to household wealth, should be borne in mind.
We have taken certain decisions today. We took a decision on the removal of the marriage bar in certain Civil Service occupations. Now would be the appropriate time for us to try to embark on a programme of such legislation changing the status of women, and doing so quickly. There are many simple matters to which reference has been made, conventions by which we can update our society and come into line.
But there are other—and let us be clear about it—more contentious issues involved in changing the status of women. We have to realise that we ourselves are products of a particular type of culture. This pictures woman in a particular kind of role, and it will be difficult for many of us to even envisage legislation which would accord the full gamut of rights to women in our society. There are certain people who have been helped by recent budgetary measures. I welcome the opportunity for the kind of discussion we are having now.
The stereotype of the woman's role is something to which attention will have to be paid. Education and educational structures should be such as to allow a woman to develop as an individual to her full potential. Such immediate action should be taken within the existing educational structure to make this possible. People presume that to change educational structures is an easy business, that suddenly you can automatically effect great changes in society. That is not so. I have some experience of the educational establishment and I am not as optimistic as the many people who see it as a very dynamic context for ideas. It is no such thing.
I welcome this report and I should like to pay tribute to those who served on the Commission. They have compiled in a short period a wide body of facts concerning the participation of women in the industrial and service sectors of our society. Their report, and the discussion we are having on it in the Seanad, should be departure points for imaginative and courageous legislation which will restore rights to women. We should seek to immediately remove those impediments which can be quickly removed, and this should be done without making too many claims. Changing the position of women in our society is an invitation to a discussion on the new and more appropriate ethics under which we might all live in dignity. Seanad Éireann should have an opportunity of discussing many more documents such as this document and of discussing them at much greater length. They are important documents and provide a very good basis for launching courageous and imaginative legislation.
Like other Senators I should like to begin by congratulating the Commission on the Status of Women for the extremely effective way in which they have laid out their views on this topic. Looking through the report one cannot but be impressed by the careful and factual way, with no emotive or exaggerated language, in which they have dealt with all the aspects. Almost all the recommendations they produce strike one as being reasonable and practicable, something which cannot always be said about the reports of Commissioners. The fact that a majority of the members of this Commission were women speaks very highly for the claims of women to be given the opportunity to play their full part in the life of the country.
With regard to the equal status of women, by far the most important aspect of this must be the question of employment. In this regard there are three distinct but related matters to be considered—the question of equal pay, the question of the reservation of jobs and the lack of promotional opportunities. As regards equal pay, we all know that the average wages of women throughout not merely the Civil Service but the economic set-up as a whole is far below that of men. This report mentions that in March, 1972, in Irish industry the average earnings of women were just 57 per cent of those of men. This is composed of two separate but very closely related aspects. For equal work women are in very many cases paid less and also the type of work made available to them in general is inferior to that available to men.
Clearly, equal pay for equal work will have to be introduced. The report points out that the average effect on the cost of living index of bringing in equal pay for women is about 3 per cent. That minimises to some extent the problem. While a 3 per cent rise in the cost of living, in view of the kind of rises we have been having lately, is negligible it is clear that in certain industries the effects of bringing in equal pay will be very serious indeed and will cause great problems. This will not happen overnight.
The second aspect of male only jobs is perhaps one of the most intractable, because it presents us with the problems of vested interests, trade unions, organised on a basis that only men are entitled to work in certain employments. An obvious one which comes to mind is the printing industry, which is very highly paid and a very privileged industry, and to some extent a very skilled one, where men only not merely in this country but also in Britain are employed. Back in 1890 the poet William Morris who had founded his hand-press, the Cheltenham Press, had to fight a successful High Court action to get a legal decision on his right to employ a woman in printing. That was a pioneering action. He could have saved himself the trouble because in this year of 1973, over 80 years later, we still have the situation that in this important industry women are excluded.
In Irish pubs men only are entitled to serve behind counters in unionised houses, although so far as I am aware in every other country in the world women are employed equally with men. Our banks until comparatively recently prevented women from holding any but the most menial jobs such as typists and secretaries. I can remember when the point was made quite seriously by intelligent people in banks that women could not be employed as cashiers because the public would be worried about the safety of their money and take it away. We now have women as cashiers and in all other positions in banks and no problems of this kind have arisen.
Perhaps the most serious single problem not merely in industry but in the whole economic life of the country is the question of lack of opportunities for promotion. This problem exists not merely in this country but in all countries outside the Iron Curtain where they have their own way of organising these matters. In all the democratic countries we have the situation that the higher, the more important, the better paid the positions, the fewer women are employed in them. This relates to Ireland, Britain, America, Continental countries and even the EEC. Recently, a member of the European Parliament put down a question to the Commission asking for details of the proportion of women employed in the various grades of the very large Civil Service in Brussels and Luxembourg. The answer came, as one would expect, showing that the higher the position the fewer the women. There were no women in the grade of Director General. There were one or two Directors and then the further down you go the more women appear. The Commission added blandly in their reply that the member who put down this question must remember that, of course, for all these higher grades these people had been appointed by a selection committee and the Commission had to accept the people who were chosen by these committees. This is really no answer.
The whole matter is to a large extent bound up in a sort of prejudice. There is a feeling men—and women also— tend to share that women are in some degree intellectually inferior. It is all right to have women in lower paid jobs or, as Senator Higgins has stated, making the tea at election time, but when it comes to important administrative positions they are not quite the thing. When it comes to the crunch of making a particular appointment it is surprising how often people you would expect to be open-minded and liberal in their approach tend to make this point.
This kind of prejudice is also reflected in the political life not merely of this country but of all other democratic countries I know of. We all know there are very few women Deputies and very few women Senators. I remember, thinking back to one of the more embarrassing moments of my early youth, as a university student attending a meeting in the Mansion House. As I was leaving it the friend I was with turned to me and said suddenly: "Why do you think there are so few women in public life?" In what must have been a rather brash, self-confident, youthful way I said: "The answer is very simple. If a woman goes up for election there is no real reason why a man should vote for her and the women themselves would not be seen dead voting for her." At this point a woman's voice, from over my left shoulder piped in and said: "I am very interested to hear you say this because I am a candidate for the local elections", which were taking place in three weeks time. She turned out to be an extremely well-known, extremely efficient and highly respected trade union official. She was president, in fact, of a trade union. I retreated in considerable disorder but I kept an eye on her vote at the coming local elections and she ended up with 200 votes.
That was some 30 years ago but I think that answer was correct then and I am afraid it would come near the truth even now. The reason why there are so few women in public life is simply a question of prejudice not merely among men but, more particularly, among women themselves. It is the kind of prejudice which is also shown in the selection of jurors which has been raised. We have the situation, which is highly unsatisfactory, that women must apply to become jurors. I do not know how often in the last 50 years a woman has actually acted on a jury. It must be not more than half-a-dozen times because the normal practice is that lawyers, who are all men, automatically assume that a woman who applied to be on a jury must be a bit of a crank or the kind of person you do not wish to have around when your client is before the court and so they are knocked off the list. It is the kind of prejudice that makes one feel that no matter what changes are made in the law we will never really achieve the goal of equal status for women in the absence of a more realistic appraisal of the talents and possibilities of women.
A serious problem which must be dealt with is that of education. This has a lot to do with the kind of assumptions which are so common that women are in some way unsuited for important positions in economic life. There is no doubt about it that in Irish education there is a very heavy bias in girls' schools in favour of such subjects as biology and home economics instead of mathematics and science. I accept completely that the subject of home economics is a very important one. It should be well taught and it should be taught to anyone who wishes to take it at school; but there is absolutely no reason why it should be assumed as a matter of course that a girl at school should do home economics rather than physics, chemistry or mathematics. That is the type of assumption we get in Irish education.
Some interesting figures are given by the Commission in Table 31. The number of girls, taking the leaving certificate results for 1971, who took the leaving certificate was about 4,000 higher than the number of boys; but when it came to mathematics the number who did the honours papers was 1,803 for the boys and 314 girls. In the honours physics paper there were 1,345 boys and 135 girls. Chemistry honours revealed that there were 1,813 boys and 518 girls. An overwhelming proportion of the girls took subjects such as biology and home economics. Not only did very few girls take honours in mathematics, physics and chemistry in their leaving certificate but when we come to the results we note that a much smaller percentage of them got honours in those subjects than the boys. It might be said that this is a sign that boys are better at science and mathematics than girls, but I do not think there is any real evidence to this effect.
It is absolutely clear from all the evidence that, while there are notable exceptions, the prevailing standards for the teaching of mathematics and science in girls' schools are very, very poor. The teachers in many cases are inadequately trained. The laboratory facilities in girls' schools are in many cases deplorable. This is a clear case of unintended discrimination, but nonetheless discrimination, against girls, which is reflected later on in the type of qualifications that women seeking employment are able to produce.
The last point with which I wish to deal is one which is dealt with quite briefly in the report—family planning. It is clear from the brevity of this section and the extremely careful way in which it is worded that those who wrote the report were anxious to be able to get agreement and to arrive at some sort of formula which would be acceptable to all. In spite of their obvious difficulties they came out quite directly and at paragraph 572 they said:
We consider that parents have the right to regulate the number and spacing of their family and that such right can only be exercised with the full agreement of both husband and wife and is not the exclusive right of one or the other.
In the next paragraph we read:
As to the methods which may be adopted by parents in the exercise of this right, it must remain a matter for their mutual selection and be influenced by their moral conscience.
My own personal view on this—in discussing a report of this kind obviously we are speaking as individuals rather than strictly as party representatives—are quite simple. To my mind it is not a matter at all of whether one is in favour of family planning or any particular method of family planning or of whether one is against it. The basic point is, as the report says, that it is a matter for the moral conscience of each citizen or the parents themselves. The State obviously has a right, indeed a duty, to consider the moral aspects that may be involved, for example, in the sale of family planning appliances; but on the basic question it is a matter for the moral conscience of each citizen. The State has no right to interfer in that regard.
I will end by hoping that at the earliest possible date the recommendations on this aspect and on all other aspects of this report will be carried out.
Senator Yeats said something about the teaching in girls' schools. Am I right in thinking that he considers the teaching in girls' schools in Ireland is abysmally lower than the standard of the teaching in boys' schools?
In science and honours mathematics.
I presume that Senator Yeats has done some research on this matter and has figures to support it?
I have made my point.
Senator Yeats confined his remark to science and higher mathematics.
I wish to make a few remarks. I was particularly impressed by what Senator Noel Browne had to say. It seems to me that this report on the status of women is one of the most impressive things that has ever been produced within the structure of parliamentary research. It is marvellously impressive, very thorough and in every possible way admirable. What I have to say will be very brief. It has to do with what seems to be an omission from the emphasis of the report. It is something that Senator Noel Browne has taken up and I think expressed very well. All the legal deprivations under which women are suffering in this society of ours are largely the accretions of history. I was trying to suggest at an earlier stage that a new broom such as the present new Government should sweep clean and swift, remove these, and not make it a process of slow attrition and argument, where a whole body of hysterical rhetoric builds up, in a situation where women are deprived of their various basic and obvious rights in society. The quicker these are got out of the way the better.
Certainly, there lies behind the desire for reform something which I think is dangerous, and I am very glad to see that a man of such radical opinion as Senator Browne also sees it. It seems to me regrettable—and it is the only grounds for regret that I have about this report; perhaps the reason for the omission is that it was taken as read and understood—that the report did not mention that the role of woman as mother is an extraordinarily important role. Senator Browne went as far as to say that there are certain women who should not have children, and I would concur in that. The ideal society should be one in which the women who really want children have children, love them, rear them and bring them up as good citizens, and that it would not be a society in which there is endless pressure on every female to be married and to have children. I think this is a profound flaw.
If we are to think radically about our society we should think in precisely that way. There are certain women who are made to be mothers and there are certain women who just should not have children. Senator Browne said earlier that it was just as subtle and difficult an activity to rear one child well as it is to put a man on the moon, because that particular role of motherhood does require an incredible degree of patience, inventiveness, creativity, subtlety, humour, intelligence and indeed brilliance. It seems to me that the Report on the Status of Women does not give sufficient force to that one great central activity of women in our society. It does not sufficiently salute that, it seems to me.
Chesterton once made a remark about women who suddenly all became secretaries. He said that the women of the world threw off their chains and immediately began to take dictation. There are very few roles in the world of commerce or industry as interesting as the role of rearing a child really well. This report suffers only in that particular respect. In the discussion of the status of women it is important that we should lay some slight stress on the immense importance of the role of motherhood. It is a role that many women enjoy; they really welcome it, they like it and they want to pursue it; and it would be a pity if in some kind of mad rush towards enlightenment we were to undervalue that traditional role.
I would 99 per cent welcome this Report on the Status of Women. It is marvellously researched and a very brilliant document, but I do feel there is that one lack in it. This is one of the things we must bear in mind when we undertake reform on all these fronts, particularly the legal front. The disabilities under which women suffer in their right to property, in the situation of deserted wives, unmarried mothers, and so forth, all of these can be very quickly eliminated if we go swiftly and thoroughly about it. I would not like to throw out the baby with the bathwater in the literal and metaphorical sense. One matter which has been a little neglected in the Report on the Status of Women is the role which gives women greater status, that is, the role of being really competent, subtle mothers. That should be borne in mind when we come to frame legislation in the future with regard to this very urgent and important area of our social and economic life.
I think this afternoon we are really making history in accepting with such emotion this document which might well be said to represent an emancipation of our female community. We are making history because those of us who have been involved with the trade union movement over a number of years and have focussed attention on many of the problems contained in this report must realise that people, and even the Government, became very alarmed up to recently when equal pay for equal work was mentioned in the case of females. All sorts of barriers were placed in the way. Due to the wonderful work of this Commission and the subsequent acceptance of this document, that is now almost an accomplished fact.
The acceptance of the document however still leaves much work to be done to eliminate the exploitation of our female sex in various employments be they in Government, semi-State or private sectors. All of us are very well aware of the magnitude of the job that lies ahead to completely eliminate this problem. For years past we have had female workers doing work of equal value to male workers but being adversely treated, not only in the matter of salaries and wages but in regard to opportunities for promotion and so on.
It is pleasant to see this major blueprint for social change. It could easily have been put into a cupboard and left to gather dust. Much further legislation will be required—legislation such as the House passed today to remove the marriage bar in the public service —to ensure a speedy end to the exploitation of females, as envisaged in this report. While it is a splendid thing to see the acceptance of this document this afternoon, we will have to become watchdogs to ensure that the present outlines of this document are implemented. These will be implemented only by constant and stringent legislation, because there are still powerful and influential forces against this document, especially in relation to the implementation of the equal pay clause.
We in the Legislature must set the example and see that within our own House, within our own employments and as far as our influence can go, the tenets of this document are not only accepted but implemented. We must take whatever action is required to ensure that in the private sector of employment, where there is discrimination against women as regards equal pay, conditions or opportunities, the full tenets of this report will be implemented.
I should like to add my congratulations to those already expressed to the Commission on the wonderful job they have done. Having said that, it should also be borne in mind that they probably were conscious of the fact that not only were they making recommendations to have legislation introduced in certain areas but that attitudes which had grown during the years had to be broken down. Consequently, some of the suggestions and recommendations running through the report aim at that.
It should be borne in mind that if you are dealing with a situation where attitudes have grown up during 50 years, then nobody should expect miracles overnight and think those attitudes can be changed. The attitudes were there not only in past administrations, irrespective of whether they were Coalition or Fianna Fáil, between worker and worker and between female and female—it is not a question of attitudes of one particular sex to another, it is a question of interblending attitudes which will have to be broken down.
Senator Yeats and Senator Browne have given us some very desirable and wholesome objectives. I should like to see them being realised as quickly as possible. In the employment of women there is an area where very quick effect can be given and legislation to deal with it can be brought in. I refer to equal pay which is set out at paragraph 98, in which the Commission recommend that legislation be brought in to deal with this. There need be no delay there.
The question of the removal of the marriage bar in the Civil Service has been dealt with to some extent today but the Government are unfortunately only able to deal with the people whom they employ and who work within their institutions. It might be more difficult to remove the marriage bar in other areas. I am sure the Taoiseach might give some consideration to this problem when he is speaking at the close of this debate.
The other recommendations set out at paragraphs 255, 256, 257, 258 and 259 are matters to which effect could be given quickly. They deal with work problems. The question of maternity leave at paragraphs 265, 266, 268 and 270, could also be dealt with quickly.
I have some reservations on paragraph 250 where the Commission recommend that the Labour Court be given responsibility for investigating complaints. I have not totally made up my mind on this point but I know that a recommendation for legislation can be made if things are not working as envisaged. There are some impediments there. I believe the recommendation could have gone further in this sense. Whether we like it or not, investigations by the Labour Court, even though they do great work, are very long drawn-out and I do not think it will achieve the breaking down of attitudes that is absolutely necessary if we propose to bring in that type of legislation. The reason I say there is great difficulty on the question of attitudes is brought about by the fact that from what I can gather half of the total population of the EEC—possibly the Six, I am not so sure about the enlarged Community—were women. To the present day some of the recommendations contained in the Commission's report have not been given effect to in many of the countries of the EEC, particularly in Holland. There are many problems facing women in Holland which have not yet been overcome.
In Ireland the predominant attitude was that the woman's place was in the home. This attitude has hampered progress. The State was also responsible for this attitude. While members of the community were complaining about this attitude, the State was making no endeavour to create employment in which the attitude could be broken down. Women were well below the standard of men in the sphere of technological training and were undereducated compared with the opportunities given to men; but no great endeavour was made by the State to break down those attitudes or to work towards a climate that would have broken them down. The attitude was that women were non-productive, that they were a burden on the State and had to be provided for by their husbands. Because that attitude has existed for so many years it becomes that much more difficult to deal with now.
Coupled with the points I made about legislation and with the recommendations of the Commission, we now have the basis or guidelines to move forward. We can see that women have fallen behind the standard of men in vocational technological training, training in crafts and even training in civic affairs. Unfortunately, because the attitudes have existed for so long, it means tackling the educational system and trying to tailor it to the needs of the particular people to whom I have referred and who have not had the opportunity of having the type of training afforded to men.
Senator M.D. Higgins mentioned that you cannot change the educational system overnight, that here are many built-in difficulties. Whether there are built-in difficulties or not, it must be recognised that if the younger female generation are not to grow up in the same fashion as their mothers did, where they were steered towards routine type of work, where there were no opportunities for advancement, and supervisory posts were largely held by males who probably were not as competent as some of the females, they must be given the necessary training. In that way there would be more opportunities for women.
If we embark on this educational programme for the younger female generation and at the same time do not make full use of AnCO or other areas of adult education to develop the skills which women possess for vocational opportunities, the result will be that, because of the movement of labour now possible within the EEC, the skilled jobs created by new industry will be filled by people coming into the country from within Europe who have already acquired these skills. They will be able to operate in a sellers' market to greater advantage than the Irish people.
My concern is that the legislation which I mentioned should become effective fairly quickly. The other matters will materialise eventually but I would agree with the reservations already expressed that problems exist. Attitudes which have been built up during 40 or 50 years will not be broken down by the stroke of a pen or in a fortnight or three weeks. The legislation I mentioned can go a long way towards breaking down some of the barriers. If this legislation is enacted quickly we can then create the proper climate to introduce the necessary legislation which will bring about the other desirable objectives mentioned in the report.
I should like, first of all, to thank Senator Robinson for her welcoming remarks at the beginning of the debate and to join with her and other Senators who have expressed not only the Government's but the Senator's appreciation and that of the public to Dr. Thekla Beere and her colleagues on the Commission who produced the report on the Status of Women which we are now discussing.
The report has evoked much interest and attention and this debate here this evening is an indication of the value and merit which so many people have discovered on reading it and on considering the various recommendations and comments. As a number of Senators have said, this particular matter is not merely a complex one but also affects the attitude of people. To that extent, a discussion of this sort deals with a very wide area. It covers attitudes of individuals and groups. It involves, as Senator Yeats said, built-in prejudices from a different era. The same view was expressed by Senator Harte: that it is impossible to expect attitudes to change on such a matter suddenly or in a short space of time.
However, what I propose to try to do here this evening is to give an indication of the Government's approach to this matter and the steps which the Government have already taken and to refer to some of the matters which are still the subject of consideration.
The matters which the Government, either as aspects of policy or being responsible for the introduction of legislation, can deal with are in the main in the public area. As a number of Senators said, private employment, the area in which the indivduals who are not part of the State machine are concerned, is a different area and to that extent while restrictions may be removed by legislation, the power to carry some of the recommendations into effect lies with individuals or groups in the community.
So far as the Government are concerned, we are committed to ending all forms of discrimination against women, particularly in the field of social reform, in so far as that affects women, widowed, married and single. In that area, I propose later to refer to some of the changes which were effected either arising from decisions announced in the budget or subsequently carried into effect in the Social Welfare Act. Also, the Bill which was passed here earlier today removed, in so far as the legislation was concerned, the bar on married women being re-employed in the Civil Service.
This particular report is a most important one because it helps to formulate policy in relation to a variety of matters. The report itself has recognised that this cannot be carried out immediately or indeed very quickly. Although this country and other member countries of the EEC, because of membership and acceptance of the Rome Treaty, subscribed to the terms of Article 119 of the Treaty, it is important to note that with a few exceptions, and then only in limited areas, have any member countries implemented in full—or indeed in a few cases even partially—the terms of that Treaty. The removal today of the bar on married women being re-employed in the Civil Service will enable the question of accepting some of the conventions which were mentioned here earlier being now reconsidered.
The Employer/Labour Conference accepted the principle of equal pay a year ago. In that connection the question of cost was mentioned. It was also referred to in the report of the Commission itself. A breakdown indicates the amount involved on that particular aspect alone. Equal pay for Civil Service, teachers, Garda, local authority and health services staff was estimated—naturally these figures are subject to variation because of changes and indeed substantial upward variation—at over £10 million. The adjustment in social welfare allowances on the introduction of equal pay was estimated to cost over £9 million, and other social welfare adjustments at over £3 million. The introduction of a standard personal rate allowance in respect of income tax and revision of earned income relief arrangements was estimated at £9 million, and some miscellaneous costs at £20,000.
The total cost estimated at the time the Commission concluded their inquiry amounted to over £32 million. That, of course, was on wage and salary structures at mid-1971. Since then wage and salary adjustments and the on-going nature of salary and wage changes nowadays obviously means that that estimate will have to be revised upwards.
It was for these and other reasons that the Commission decided and recommended that equal pay should be introduced on a phased basis, that it could not be done quickly and the date set was 1977. In the legislation that was passed today the original intention was that it would come into effect next October, but in, fact, it will now take effect once it is signed.
The Commission, in the course of their report, recommended the enactment of legislation which would ensure women's rights not only to equal pay but also on the basis that we had to conform with Article 119 of the Treaty of Rome and also adverted to the fact that there was a commitment to end discrimination against women. I am here in place of the Minister for Finance, who is engaged in the Dáil. A number of other Ministers are also involved in this, and maybe I am assuming the role of stepping in where others have not yet formally taken the first steps. The Minister for Finance has made certain legislative changes, which were passed here today, and the Minister for Labour indicated in the course of his Estimate speech that legislation would be prepared and circulated at a later stage.
So far as social welfare is concerned —and I think this is probably one of the areas on which there was most discussion in the course of this debate— the 1973 Social Welfare Act provided a number of changes which were specifically recommended by the Commission. It is possible because of the fact that a number of these were referred to initially in the course of the Budget that they were probably lost sight of. But I might generally indicate to the House the steps that were taken and the improvements which conform with the recommendations made in the Commission's Report. One was that the requirement that a woman must have 26 employment contributions after marriage before being eligible for unemployment, disability and treatment benefit will be abolished from October next. The present marriage grant is being abolished from the same date.
The ten years social welfare contribution condition, which applies to the payment of unemployment benefit in the case of women employed in agriculture and private domestic service, was abolished from July 2nd and such women are now eligible for unemployment benefit under the same conditions as apply to other insured workers. Such women will also be eligible from October next to receive unemployment assistance when they have made 52 employment contributions in the four preceding contribution years irrespective of the rate of such contributions.
The Act also introduced a scheme of allowances for unmarried mothers who keep their children, with effect from 2nd July. This will be a noncontributory social assistance scheme, broadly on the same basis as the scheme of deserted wives allowances. Widows, deserted wives or unmarried mothers in receipt of social welfare pensions or allowances who take up insurable employment no longer have to pay the employed persons share of the social welfare insurance contribution. If they become ill or unemployed, they will, as at present, be paid half rate of benefit in addition to their pension or allowance.
The Commission recommended that widows in receipt of a contributory pension should receive unemployment or disability benefit at the rate appropriate to a married woman. But in the interim, while this change is being considered, the employment contribution should be appropriately reduced. Provision was made for the introduction of a specific benefit in the social insurance scheme for deserted wives on broadly the same basis as the widows contributory pension. Up to now only an assistance scheme applied.
The statutory regulations in regard to deserted wives are being amended to ease the position in regard to what constitutes desertion. Hitherto, a deserted wife became ineligible to receive a deserted wife's allowance if she was divorced abroad by her husband. This practice is being abandoned. Such persons will in future qualify for an allowance. Provision is also made for easing of the means test for the widow's non-contributory pension and the first £4 of weekly means will be disregarded. There are other aspects in connection with taxation that I want to mention later.
A few Senators referred to the fact that I had not in the course of making the 11 nominations to the Seanad included a woman in the list. I think that fact was effectively answered by some of those who said a woman should not be appointed merely because she is a woman. That is the important thing. In respect of any public appointments or State appointments the thing to do is to pick the right people and to appoint them. But I think it is correct to say, and I am glad to say, that the Government in their short time in office have already appointed two women to State boards. Up to this there was probably only one on a State board.
Reference has been made to this because I think it is important to get the right people on State boards and in public life generally and in public affairs as distinct from being Members of the Dáil and Seanad. Women have a most valuable and definite contribution to make but I mention this because there are a number of areas in which the prejudices, as some Senators mentioned, or the traditions which we have inherited in considering this whole question either inhibit or have so far prevented women being appointed.
It is true that there is no woman on the Labour Court but I understand there is one female conciliation officer. Here again trade unions and employers organisations are involved; and while legislative provisions do not prevent change the decision to make changes depends on a number of built-in-reservations which, as Senators have recognised, have come down from the past. So far as the Government are concerned we are moving as rapidly as possible in every area in which Government action is necessary and that, of course, involves both the Dáil and the Seanad in the enactment of the necessary legislation as rapidly as possible to deal with a number of these restrictions or legislative barriers that prevent women being employed.
While Senators are aware that it has been possible to do that in respect of the Civil Service, in the private sector or where other bodies are concerned it is not enough merely to pass the legislation. In some cases legislation is not necessary. You have to have the goodwill and the co-operation of a variety of organisations.
As Senators have stated, it is a fact that the attitude of a number of bodies changes slowly in these matters for a number of reasons. This particular debate and the public interest and the attention which is being focussed on the Commission on the Status of Women and the interest the publication of that report has generated will help in changing attitudes and help in moving towards the improvements that public representatives in both Houses, men and women, are anxious to see carried out.
In so far as taxation is concerned, we have made some changes. The Finance Bill, which is going through the Dáil and Seanad at the moment, provides for an increase in the wife's earned income allowance from the present level of £74 to £104. This brings the allowance for a married couple where the wife has earned income up to a maximum of £598, or double the personal allowance to a single person. The present estate duty abatement of £2,000 for a widow is being increased to £4,000 and that for dependent children from £1,000 each to £2,000 each. Under these revised abatements a widow with, for example, three dependent children will be exempt from estate duty on an estate of up to £41,000. Also, if there is an insurance policy, the first £7,500 of life insurance benefits are being excluded from the value of an estate for estate duty purposes, and in future the first £7,500 of superannuation death benefits will be excluded irrespective of the aggregate value of such benefits.
I mention these improvements because they are a practical demonstration of the actual steps which the Government are already taking in this matter. There are a number of factors which are outside Government control, but in so far as the legislation is concerned, various Departments such as Social Welfare, Justice and the Department of Labour are involved. The Minister for Justice has announced that in respect of his Department he proposes to introduce legislation dealing with the reform of marriage laws. The Minister for Labour in the course of his Estimate has indicated that it is his intention to introduce legislation on discrimination on the grounds of sex in respect of the selection of workers and their advancement. He rightly pointed out that the removal of discrimination against women will involve an examination and the formulation of complex legislation dealing with such matters as those we have mentioned: equal pay, access to employment, opportunities for advancement and continued employment after marriage. There is also the question mentioned by Senator Robinson of maternity leave and the return to employment after undertaking family responsibilities.
It is correct to state that the vast majority of the people want to see the institution of family life preserved and assisted. We recognise that this is the basis of our civilisation, that it has rights and advantages that cannot be proscribed or limited by legislation and that it is dependent on a whole range of matters outside legislation and outside, in many ways, constitutional or other rights. They are basic to our way of life. The Commission set out to deal with matters that affected women unfairly or adversely and indicated ways in which the State by taking effective action to change legislation, could improve, as Senator Higgins stated, conditions economically.
It would be a mistake to imagine that there is either a belief in this community or a demand for a number of changes that would seek to provide a substitute institution. Senator Noel Browne was correct when he stated there is no substitute for the family. There are human defects and imperfections that no legislation will cure. We can merely try to ease the lot of some people and to ensure that if people evade their responsibilities—and it might be gathered from some of the remarks in the course of this debate that a comparatively small number of the community do so—there is an obligation which we would see is carried out to ensure that where possible these people are made to accept their responsibilities; and if this is not possible the State and the various agencies such as health authorities and so on will come to the assistance of those in need. This is the way in which the community would like to see the recommendations of the Commission on the Status of Women implemented.
The report went into a variety of complex matters. Some have already been dealt with; others will take time to deal with. This debate touched on a great many matters and Senator Cáit Uí Eachthéirn rightly referred to the fact that some particular occupations tend to facilitate women in employment even though they are married. She referred to teachers, doctors and nurses. The general experience is that a number of factors, either because of the length of time they are required to work or because they can work staggered hours and are available in the evenings to return to their families, facilitate that type of work.
There are other areas where married women could also work if there were no restrictions, and that is one of the reasons why this change is being made in respect of the Civil Service. It is not quite correct to state, as Senator Robinson has done, that women were prevented from reaching top positions in the Civil Service. The fact that they had to retire on marriage prevented a lot of them from remaining, but the person who presided over this particular Commission, Dr. Beere, reached the very top level and was a distinguished secretary and had many years senior service in a Department before becoming secretary of the Department of Transport and Power. In other Departments, such as Finance and Foreign Affairs, women civil servants have reached high positions. Once this bar is removed more will do so in the future.
The question of education was referred to by a number of Senators and it obviously goes to the root of many of the problems. As a number of Senators stated women have to be trained for a variety of things, but it would be a mistake to imagine that there is widespread demand for changing the whole structure of our society merely to accommodate personal or individual views in respect of small numbers.
The fact is that the basis of our society is geared in a particular way. What we want to do, and I believe what the report has set out to do, is to ensure that wherever there is unfair discrimination, where opportunities are denied, where laws or other restrictions prevent women getting their full and equal share of similar treatment to men, they should be removed. The State has an obligation to do so and has an obligation to see that all the institutions of one form or another under the State conform to that ideal. It also has an obligation to encourage private employers and the trade unions to move in that direction. That will take a longer time. As a number of Senators, including Senator Yeats, said it is an attitude that will take time to change: we cannot expect it to disappear overnight.
I was particularly pleased to have the opportunity of coming here. Other Ministers are Departmentally more involved in this matter than my Department but, so far as the Government are concerned, we are committed to implement our undertaking to end all discrimination against women. We have already taken practical steps to carry that into effect and legislation in other spheres will be introduced—some has already been introduced—and will be pushed forward as rapidly as possible. The other reason why I am pleased to have had the opportunity of coming here is that it is only right to avail of the Seanad as part of the Legislature and to use the opportunity to enable the Seanad to discuss matters of this sort and get the views of Senators, from all sides of the House on it and emphasise in that way that the Seanad has an important role to play. It is up to the Seanad and the Government to use that role to the fullest extent.
It was a particular pleasure for me to have had the opportunity of coming here and speaking on this motion so that I could indicate in broad terms— some of which have been referred to already by Ministers both in the Dáil and in the course of debates here—the activity of the Government in this matter. I know that I speak for Members of the House when I again express our thanks not only to Dr. Beere but to all who participated and helped her on the Commission. I wish to compliment them on the lucid manner in which the report has been prepared. It is to a great extent a tribute to their work that such rapid action has followed in a number of areas in order to implement the recommendations made.
I should like to join with those Senators who have both welcomed and thanked the Taoiseach for his attendance here during the course of this debate. It is an indication of the Government's attitude, which was expressed at the very beginning of this Seanad session, of the determination to use the Seanad as a meaningful vehicle of legislation and pre-legislative debate. The Taoiseach's attendance here is a very tangible demonstration of the Government's commitment in that regard. It would be invidious if on this occasion the previous administration were not thanked and congratulated on their foresight in establishing the Commission and for appointing thereto such distinguished personnel to undertake this study on the status of women. In this regard they can legitimately be congratulated for having been somewhat ahead of the tide of popular opinion in respect of public concern for the status of women. In particular, I should like to join with those Senators who have thanked and congratulated Dr. Thekla Beere and her Commission for their report. I had the pleasure of appearing twice before that Commission as a member of a Labour Party delegation and of making submissions to them. We were received with courtesy, consideration and interest.
In the area of women's rights, the Labour Party itself established, over three years ago, by way of resolution of its national executive, the Administrative Council, a woman's advisory council to advise on matters relating to women and their rights. In fact, this debate is being listened to by both the chairman and secretary of that council and the Leas-Chathaoirleach is herself a distinguished member of the council and has represented the party at international gatherings of the International Council of Social Democratic Women dealing with these issues. The party have participated in United Nations international conferences on the question of women's rights and have been represented by the Council's chairman and secretary.
In passing, I should say that I have always been opposed to the creation of women's sections within political parties. It is commonplace in the international socialist and social-democratic movement that women's sections exist in the various parties. It is something with which I have never agreed because in itself it constitutes a form of segregation and an institutionalised admission of a different role for women in politics.
I do not accept that. I think the Leas-Chathaoirleach is an example of what a woman politician can achieve in her own right. We have the outstanding example of Deputy Desmond within our Dáil party. I might also say, as general secretary of the party, that the impact of our Woman's Advisory Council upon the thinking and attitudes of our party is in itself an indication of the impact that women can have on party thinking not only on their own affairs but also on wider issues. Had the annual conference of the Labour Party taken place, as was intended, early in March—it was superseded by a more important political event—there would have been before that conference a policy document on the status of women in society prepared by the Women's Advisory Council and approved by the party's Administrative Council. I would hope that at the forthcoming party conference in October—the first since the party has been in power— there will be a major debate on the status of women in the light of the Commission's report, in the light of what has been previously prepared, in the light of what has been done by the Government in accepting the report and in the light of what still remains to be done.
The Government should be thanked for accepting the report in principle with such speed. The Taoiseach has stated in his own address, as the National Coalition in its statement of intent had specifically mentioned, that the Government committed itself to ending discrimination against women in all forms. We have had tangible demonstration of that, as the Taoiseach has said, in the social welfare provisions of the budget and also in the Bill that was before us earlier today in respect of the abolition of the marriage bar in the Civil Service.
The most sensible approach for politicians in matters of this sort is to deal with those aspects of discrimination that can be dealt with by law or are susceptible to administrative change. Having done so in the immediate term they should then concentrate on institutional changes, for example, in the field of education. As politicians, we should be concerned with social action and not just with vacuous philosophising.
What can be done by us in the light of the submission of this report to the Government? In the economic field discrimination can be reduced but not eliminated because the use of law cannot itself totally eliminate evil. That is a psychological impossibility but there can be, for example, legal prohibitions on discrimination on the grounds of sex. The Taoiseach mentioned that the Minister for Labour referred to this prospect in the Estimate speech for his own Department. There can be also legal enforcement of equal pay provisions.
Today there was the end of the marriage bar in the Civil Service. A matter that has been referred to by previous speakers—the use of women-only jobs, which are of course a hidden form of discrimination and would be a way around any equal pay provisions—would also be an instance where the law could be used to end discrimination. In that regard it is interesting to note that in today's "Appointments" pages in the Irish Independent, page 22, we have an example in the public service of precisely the point I am making. In an advertisement for “Careers in the Public Service” there are advertised careers for young men in the Customs and Excise service. Note these jobs are confined to men. Underneath that there is an advertisement which reads:
£20 per week to start: If you are between 18½ years and 20 years on 1st October, 1973, and you have a good general education you could fill one of the 100 vacancies as Clerical Assistant (female) in the Civil Service.
It is an interesting position at £20 per week. Clerical assistants, it is said, may be engaged in drafting letters, asking for and giving factual information, making or checking arithmetical calculations, analysing reports, preparing, scrutinising and verifying documents, statistics, records, and so on. They may also be engaged on operating comptometers, calculating machines, and so on.
I would think that a position that required one to draft letters, to give factual information—a delicate and difficult task—make or check arithmetical calculations, analyse reports, prepare and scrutinise documents is a fairly senior position. Of course, the kick may be in the tail in that the assistant is also required to operate a comptometer or a calculating machine, traditionally the preserve in the commercial field of female assistants. This is a startling example of the type of hidden discrimination which must be ended and, in this case, regrettably, it is within the domain of the public service.
In the field of social welfare there was outlined in the Commission's report a large number of discriminatory attitudes and statutory provisions of a discriminatory nature. The efficacy of commissions can be evaluated by the Government's response because, having seen these things set down in print and having accepted them in principle, the Government were then faced with the obligation of doing something about the Commission's recommendations. Even though there is some repetition involved in the recitation of the Government's reaction I think it worthwhile to go through the section of the Commission's report dealing with discrimination in social welfare in order to see the outcome of the Commission's recommendations.
The first issue they dealt with was in paragraph 328 in respect of the rate of unemployment and disability benefit payable to widows who are also in receipt of widows' contributory benefit. In paragraph 333 they recommended the payment of the full benefit or, in the interim, in paragraph 334 a downward adjustment in the rate of contribution. In fact, the budget went further by totally eliminating the stamp in respect of the working widow. Then, in paragraph 329 they went on to recommend that a woman should retain her accumulated title to social insurance benefit on marriage. That too was implemented. They went on then to the position of women in agriculture or employed in domestic service. In paragraph 346 there is a statement that women do not qualify for unemployment benefit until they have contributions for a period of ten years. In this day and age it was an outlandish discrimination against women in an area of the economy that was in itself traditionally underpaid. That, too, was eliminated in the budget of 1973. Next there was the payment of unemployment assistance to the same female category and recommendations in paragraph 385 in respect of divorced wives and in paragraph 388 in respect of unmarried mothers, all of which have been given effect in the budget. The point I am making is that these were aspects of discrimination susceptible to legislative or administrative action and action has been taken.
However, there remain a number of other eminently worthwhile recommendations in the field of social welfare to which I hope in the future effect will be given particularly in respect of the scheme of compulsory insurance against widowhood and also special assistance that would be provided for widows in the period immediately following widowhood itself. This point was earlier mentioned by Senator Robinson in her opening address. It would not be going too far to say that discrimination in social welfare has been effectively ended as a result of the Commission's examination and as a result of the Government's acceptance of their recommendations.
This fact should give us heart for the future. Therefore, in looking to another area in which discrimination exists—in the economic area—we can hope for some genuine improvements within the next two years, for example, the question of income tax. I do not think that anybody could deny that the recommendation in paragraph 114 that the standard rates of personal allowance should be applicable to all persons whatever their marriage status should be adopted and, furthermore, that it should be available to a spouse for use against his or her income and could be offset against the income of other spouse if so desired. That in itself is not sufficient to end discrimination because there on the question of the earned income relief of one-quarter of earned income, which of course at the moment is subject to the maximum of £500. This also should be granted to a married woman. The position were that to be done, as paragraph 419 correctly points out, is that these changes, while in themselves constituting a move towards a more equitable situation as far as the married woman is concerned, would nonetheless give greater benefit to higher income couples. But then that simply poses a question in respect of the progressive nature of the income tax code, a feature it notably lacks at present. The Minister for Finance has indicated that it is his intention to introduce a single tax system, so that particular objection could be dealt with within the context of the new scheme which would introduce progress taxation.
However, I was particularly concerned to note in respect of income tax discrimination — paragraph 408— that separated wives, divorced or deserted wives are treated for tax assessment purposes as single persons. Yet, in the budget's social welfare provisions for this year, divorced or deserted wives are regarded as widows. I think that that is an improvement that could be introduced into the income tax code. Also the desertion period for PAYE purposes is for a period of 12 months. As I mentioned earlier this afternoon on the abolition of the marriage bar Bill, here we have a divergence between Departments of State in the definition as to what constitutes desertion. There should be a standardised definition of desertion perhaps based on the period of six months used in social welfare which is far too long in any event. But at least let there be standardisation of the definition.
However, while those are areas which are susceptible to rather rapid legislative action, nonetheless, in the longer term it is institutional changes which are needed to change the attitudes which so many Senators have correctly remarked underpin the whole framework of discrimination against women in our society. For example, within marriage itself, it has been correctly observed, the mother who is not out at work has, in effect, no financial independence, has no independent status and has no legal right to the family income. She may, of course, get a maintenance order; but this can be a difficult procedure, emotionally damaging and very often humiliating. When the Minister for Justice puts before us his findings on reform of family law I hope that he will have given consideration to building into the marriage contract, perhaps, a new concept as to what constitutes family property so that there could be a sharing of property rights on a partnership basis between man and wife thus constituting a community of property.
In such a case neither spouse could deny the other the use of the family income or property. Neither could one spouse alienate the property without the other's consent, as can happen at the moment and can constitute a grave social injustice say, to the wife and children. A husband who is an alcoholic or a compulsive gambler can alienate the family property without the wife being able to restrain him. I would hope also that within the context of the reform of the family law regard would be had to the establishment of family courts so that family and marital matters could be dealt with within a context other than that which applies to the ordinary courts which, in my view, are totally unsuitable for resoulation of family cases.
In concluding I would like to observe that the Commission rightly began their report with attitudinal changes. Perhaps it is also a good place to end. In paragraph 22 they state that:
Early sex-role development is affected mostly by the child's experience in its immediate surroundings of the home, ... these early attitudes to male and female roles may be reinforced by experience at school.
A cold hard look should be taken at the structure of the educational system, particularly at primary school level where there is an unnecessary over-stratification of the children into two different sex-streams, whereas life itself is co-educational. Third-level education is co-educational. To a growing extent secondary level education is co-educational, but yet there is differentiation on sex grounds at primary level. If, as the report says, the early attitudes of the child towards its own role in adulthood are reinforced in the schools and if these attitudes lead to a continuation of a discriminatory situation then surely we must do something about the nature of the institutions involved. Changes are called for.
Finally, as Senator Robinson said in her opening remarks, we should pay tribute to the authors of the report because it constitutes a major analysis of a grievous social ill. Perhaps in a future working report upon the progress of these recommendations greater stress could be put upon the necessity for raising the status of the married woman who stays at home. As Senators have remarked in the course of the debate, it is essential to the development of emotionally well-balanced children that there should be a reinforcing home environment; this requires a mother's care. If that be the case, then in turn she is entitled to something special from society. Yet society does not give the mother at home any legal status in her own right and for that reason family law should be changed as a matter of urgency.
The Sunday Times of last Sunday on page 1, dealing with the rise of female violence in Great Britain, contained a chilling report; but the comment of one psychiatrist was worthy of note. He said that in his experience he had found very few emotionally disturbed children who came from a stable home environment. Most psychiatrists and sociologists would regard this as being empirically correct. It stresses the necessity for a stable family life, particularly for the young child. If that be the case, society must be prepared to pay the price for ensuring that there is a stable family life by enhancing the role of the mother who is not otherwise employed.
If, as has been admitted, discrimination against women in all levels of society exists there is a commitment upon us as legislators to end it. While the aim is equality I hope the end result will not be uniformity. I should like to echo the words once stated in a French parliament: "Vive la difference".
Before Senator Lyons starts to speak, may I point out that if he takes the time allotted to him it would bring us up to 9.55 p.m. I wonder could we get a check as to the number of Senators who propose to speak because it might suit the convenience of the Seanad to continue after 10 p.m. this evening to finish the motion? I would suggest that as there are only three more speakers we continue the debate this evening.
It is abundantly clear here this evening that the age of chivalry is not dead. I am sure that all the ladies of the country are clapping themselves on the back that the males, for whom some of them have some contempt, have this evening accepted equality. To all intents and purposes, as far as a verbal assessment can be made, they all believe that in the not too distant future the Report of the Commission on the Status of Women will become fully effective. I have nothing to say against that because I believe this should take place in the shortest time. All of us know that if it is accepted, as it seems to be in the public sector, women will get equality and that the necessary measures will be taken to ensure that this comes into effect. This has to be welcomed by everybody.
Most Senators were of the opinion that pressures from the male sector of the population at every level were responsible for women being regarded as supposedly inferior to men and accepted by society as such. But the women themselves must bear some of the blame for this. Women have not asserted themselves as they should particularly in public life but also in private life. They have accepted this situation for many years with very little outcry except from certain sections who were looked upon by their sisters as a far-out element and as amazons to some extent. When women put themselves forward for election their sisters did not support them. This must be said if we are to be truthful and factual about the situation. If they had supported them the question of whether they would have come to the top in the field of politics, administration or business is another matter. I believe they would.
We must look at the situation as it will be in the future. If the women themselves are to accept equality, they will no longer need the chivalrous male to support, protect or open the door for them or to wheel the pram for them. They will of their own right defend themselves and perhaps we may see the boot on the other foot. We have all heard about the woman wearing the breeches. Perhaps it would be no harm if for a certain time the majority of the women were to wear the breeches and tell the mere male animal where he got off.
A lot of those who in the past were supposed to be downtrodden females in the family circle were well able to assert themselves when the occasion arose, and even when it did not. I should not like to see a situation arise in which family life was undermined to any extent—I do not say by permissiveness—by bringing about the type of situation Senator Martin spoke about earlier this evening. He implied that we should have legislation to give effect to what he portrayed as the complete sexual independence of women. In this situation a woman could decry marriage and at the same time have her family, with the full responsibility for the family presumably on her own shoulders. If we took this to its logical conclusion I wonder in what context would the mere male find himself? You could visualise a situation in the future in which women would have the male as a mere chattel to be used as she thought fit. This is a situation which should not arise and should not be encouraged under legislation. The family should be protected in every way. Family life, consisting of husband, wife and children, should be supported as well as protected by the State. Jobs should be made available for the husband and wife.
If the report is logically implemented with equality existing in all sectors and women being allowed to retain their working positions after marriage, then unless there is an escalation in the number of jobs, this will create problems for younger women who will be eligible for work. A solution to this problem must be found. There are many fields, such as nursing and teaching, in which it is possible for married women to be usefully employed. If, however, this policy is implemented in other areas, problems will arise, not only for married but for single women who will be available on the labour market.
These are situations which will arise in the future. The Taoiseach this evening outlined the parts of the report which had already been implemented by the Government. There was total acceptance by the Government of the rest of the report. We all know that the implementation of these recommendations will take time. We also know that there will be vested interests who will fight openly and covertly against these recommendations. It will be the duty of every public representative to play his part to bring the recommendations set out in this report into operation.
I welcome the opportunity we have had today of discussing this motion on the status of women. For too long in this country our treatment of womenfolk has been something we swept under the carpet: to say the least of it, our treatment of women has been unfair.
I agree with most of what has been said here this evening, but I disagree with the remarks of Senator Cait Uí Eachthéirn and another Senator concerning the Taoiseach's choice of 11 nominees. They could very well be right, but I do not agree with them.
The stress during the debate has been far too much on matters materialistic. People when they spoke about the status of women have referred to working conditions and similar rights. I would agree to some extent with what Senator Lyons has said about status and so on. I wonder if the women of this country would settle for less equality regarding status and more in the matter of treatment. I feel that over the years women have got a raw deal. Senator Martin stated that it is a tradition. It is a tradition that our women have not got a fair deal. Nobody seems to be able to answer the question of what we do to rectify the situation.
There have been some fleeting references made to improving sex education and having co-educational schools. This point should have been developed in greater detail. This is the way in which we can give our women a better deal. Senator Browne stated that sex education should begin at four years of age. I am not qualified to comment on that point. Our present system of education however has given rise to most unhealthy attitudes among our young people. These attitudes continue right through life. A better approach to sex education would help to eliminate these wrong attitudes.
Co-education is another system which should be introduced. At the moment I think its introduction depends on economics. We are so tied up with the system of boys and girls schools—that is the way it has been for so many years—that people have become used to the situation. Co-education would eliminate many barriers and misunderstandings which exist. I am a schoolteacher and I find that boys are very shy and feel awkward in the company of girls. Often this shyness turns into aggressiveness for some peculiar reason. This aggressiveness can be ugly and vulgar. Then the courting stage is reached, where perhaps there is more courtesy and consideration on the part of the male, but after that he tends to revert to his former aggressive self which largely consists of the wife staying at home and minding the children while he goes to the "boozer". The whole problem evolves from our system of education and from our lack of sex education. There is complete misunderstanding on the part of the young and not-so-young of what is right and of how to approach the problem.
Somebody said earlier that it is possible to legislate to improve the status of women, as was done earlier in the day, but it is not possible to legislate to improve the attitudes of people towards one another. Our attitude towards our womenfolk must improve.
Senator Quinlan is a professor of mathematical physics at UCC. I wonder how many female students he has had in his class during his term of office in Cork University. I imagine the number is very small. Looking at the table which Senator Yeats referred to earlier, in the engineering faculties in all our universities there were, in 1971, 1,210 male engineering students whereas there were only 14 female students. I do not believe that girls are inferior where mathematics are concerned. Some people may think they are inferior, but it should be proved. It is the same as the attitude shown towards lady drivers. People make the allegation that they are hopeless drivers. Sometimes, they may not drive very well; but it is lack of practice because they get very little chance. When they get the chance, they may be a menace, but the fault lies with the men.
This bias against the teaching of mathematics or other such subjects should not exist. The figures also refer to science. It states that there were 1,413 male science students and only 577 female students. It would be interesting if those figures were broken down further to discover the various fields of science these people were studying. The vast majority of the girls were probably studying subjects such as biology, bio-chemistry, botany, zoology and they would have ignored the mathematical sciences such as maths, physics and so on. This is a discrimination which the co-educational system would eliminate. It cannot be eliminated under the present system as graduates and teachers are not available and girls with an aptitude for mathematical science subjects are not getting a chance in this connection.
The materialistic side has been emphasised far too much. Our poor treatment of women is what we should be discussing.
I should like to join with Senator Robinson in welcoming the Taoiseach who has attended the greater part of this debate, and to express my thanks for his intervention in it. I should also like to express my own thoughts about what he stated. I would be happier if what he stated about the Government's future plans could have been more specific. He referred to the promise made by the Minister for Justice to bring in a reform of the marriage law. I, in conjunction with Senator Years and Senator Robinson on this side of the House and Senators on the other side of the House, would have welcomed an assurance that the question of family planning would be included in this revision of marriage law. As we are only too embarrassingly aware, it is not a matter of marriage law as such, but in so far as it is affected by law it is affected by the criminal law. So far we have not had a clear statement of intent by the Government or any responsible member of the Government on the basic simple recommendation of the Commission on the Status of Women, and the opportunity to make such a statement was missed here this evening.
The Taoiseach gave us chapter and verse for what the Government are doing in the matter of removing discrimination against women. This is an honourable record to date and bears repeating and listening to. I would urge on the Taoiseach and on the Government that putting their own house in order should give them the courage to make a more positive and even an aggressive approach to the types of discrimination against women that exists in the private sector. Their action in putting their own house in order has given them a moral right to look more critically at other sectors of society where there are examples of kinds of discrimination that could be cured by the kind of social legislation that will not cost the taxpayer one penny.
I found the report to be an absolutely fascinating and compelling document, all the more so because of the cool matter-of-fact way in which the authors have approached a subject that could have been dealt with in blood, sweat and tears. It gives a quite incredible impression of the role and status of women in contemporary Irish society. It is a picture of a slave race, delicately done, with most of the details finely etched in. What would happen if some form of atomic explosion, such as the type being practised so cavalierly by the French at the moment, were to obliterate Irish civilisation leaving nothing behind it but one single copy of Dr. Thekla Beere's report? What would an archaeological researcher of the year 2573 make of this report? What kind of conclusions would he draw about the kind of society that existed in this island about 1,000 years before? He would be horrified, and rightly so, because this report depicts a society that is in many ways very sick, very much in need of positive and intelligent action, but also of sensitive action. Since I got the report and read such compelling chapter and verse about the male-fixated type of society we had in Ireland, it has been my opinion that for many women over the past 50, 80 or 100 years entry into the religious life, if they were Catholics, must have been the only possible way of escape from this kind of society.
I look on the tradition of female religious orders in this country as being, in its own way and in its own time, a kind of primitive "women's lib" gesture against the male-dominated society in which so many of these intelligent, sensitive and talented women were encapsulated. For many of them it was the only way by which they could escape from the society, the only way they could be accepted as human beings, accepted for their own work, their own talents and abilities. That is in parenthesis but it is an observation which can be made on this point.
There is a very interesting undercurrent in the report, which is not stressed as much as I would wish, and that is that many of the examples of discrimination against women which it lists and enumerates are very often examples of hidden discrimination against men. There is a type of reverse-discrimination against men built into any pattern of discrimination against women. It is not so long ago since I remember seeing an advertisement by the Department of Labour for a series of categories of jobs. One column was headed "Jobs for Boys", another was headed "Jobs for Girls" and a third headed "Jobs for Boys and Girls". It was not even "Jobs suitable for Boys" or "Jobs suitable for Girls". That would have been bad enough, but at least it would not have excluded persons of the other sex from the jobs mentioned. This was an example of a bureaucracy quite arbitrarily deciding what kind of employment was suitable for girls and what kind of employment was suitable for boys. This practice, so far as I am aware, has ceased in the Department of Labour's careers advertisements. It is the type of thing that can creep back if we do not watch carefully.
This kind of reverse discrimination is touched on here and there in the report. A copy of the report should be in every school. A course on it could and should be taught in almost every civics classroom. The question arises as to what kind of classroom will it be taught in. What type of class will it be taught to? I was very interested in the remarks made by Senator Deasy, a practising teacher, about the value of co-education. I intend to go into this in greater detail, as I believe just as strongly as he does that this is one of the key issues— and one which the report faces up to pretty fairly and squarely—in removing some of the problems of attitude which lead to discrimination against women in our society.
We have, in the Republic, a system of education which is divided in almost every way in which it is possible to divide an educational system. It is divided between Catholics and Protestants. It is divided between middle-class children and working-class children. It is divided between boys and girls. It is divided between children of presumably good ability and children of presumably bad ability. Of all these divisions—they are all important—the division between children on the grounds of sex is a particularly harmful one. It has roots in history which are not thought about often enough.
Our educational system was developed over the last century or so at a time when there were three very strong influences in Irish society. One was the economic influence. A hundred years ago Irish parents, still staggering economically from the effects of the Famine, saw the danger of further subdividing holdings that were in many cases already very uneconomical. This lead to pressure on children from their parents to postpone marriage until the very last possible moment. This is a tendency which persists to our own time. It is also a tendency which helped to lead to the creation of single sex schools.
Another of the main emphases in the air at that time was the very rapid and, in many respects, phenomenal growth of the Catholic religious orders whose recruitment patterns were for young Irish men and women alike an avenue of escape from a life of drudgery and toil. Another of the main emphases in the creation of our single sex schools was the fact that recruitment through religious orders from such schools seemed to the religious authorities concerned to be much more sure and much more guaranteed. The third main influence —it should not be underrated either— was the influence of the public attitudes at the time. It is true to say that about a century ago in Ireland we were busily adapting and fashioning to our own needs, as we understood them at the time, very many elements of the society that existed in Victorian Britain, especially its repressive and prudent attitude to sexual morality and its quite savage approach to the education of children. These attitudes were built into our educational system semi-consciously and we are landed with the results nowadays.
This is one of the problems to which the report now addresses itself. It may be said that parents in the Republic today prefer single sex schools, and this may well be an objective statement of fact. But I think it is our responsibility as legislators, as it has been the responsibility of the compilers of this report, to show Irish parents in an unemotional way the effects of the divided and segregated school system which they are supporting. Perhaps they are supporting it because they do not know what the facts of the situation are. Perhaps they are supporting it because they have never been offered anything better. I do not know. But we should at least attempt to show what are the facts.
Basically, my opposition to segregated education—and it is one which is echoed in the report—is on the grounds that you cannot have educatio which is at the same time separate and equal. If I say that one cannot logically be against apartheid in South Africa and in favour of segregated education in Ireland I will be accused of being melodramatic and of overstating the case, but exactly the same principle applies in both cases. One cannot have development that is separate and equal because in such a situation the inequalities inherent in people's attitudes receives some form of institutional expression and the weaker will always go to the wall.
Irish parents should be made aware of the researches of this report and of other researches about the effects of segregated education. The main one, already referred to by Senator Yeats and Senator Deasy, is that of discrimination against girls in the matter of subject choices available to them in schools. To support this I should like to quote very briefly four short sections from an article by Dr. Seán McDonagh, principal of the Regional Technical College in Dundalk, who analysed the leaving certificate figures in 1972 and made the following very valuable comments.
Mathematics—a universal choice for boys—was not chosen by one-quarter of the girls. Can this be explained by girls being naturally weak mathematically—a popular view—or does the reason more correctly lie in the vicious circle of single-sex schools with inadequate teachers producing few women qualified to follow university courses and return as teachers to such schools?
Again, I quote:
The sciences again exhibit a great difference between the proportions of boys and girls pursuing them. Do the percentages of the table really illustrate a nation satisfactorily and systematically developing its scientific talents? Has such a small proportion of girls, for instance, got an aptitude for physics?
Potentially, the senior-cycle programme can be used in the promotion of the arts. The musical subjects are being chosen by a very small minority. Again the boy/girl disparity in art causes one to question whether its adoption is accidental or properly related to student aptitude.
The only conclusion we can draw from the facts is that girls are not doing certain subjects either because they cannot—they are not available at the schools—or because they are being persuaded not to do them. This is discrimination and co-education will be one of the ways in which we can help to stamp it out.
The other form of discrimination is that relating to employment. This has already been gone into very thoroughly but I should like to quote one section from the report which shows the intimate relationship between education and employment. In paragraph 515 we read:
In many instances where we have been presented with claims of discrimination and lack of opportunity, particularly in recruitment to employment and in promotion in employment, a recurrent object of criticism has been defects in the formal education of girls and in the attitudes implanted in girls' minds during their formative years at school.
Nothing could be plainer than that plain English. It is an indictment of the system and an indictment we should listen to.
The third main consequence of this form of segregated education is, as Senator Deasy pointed out as well as I could have hoped to, the serious effect it has on the socialisation of young boys and girls. I believe that boys and girls who have been educated apart from each other, irrespective of whether the schools are academically good in themselves, are socially inadequate or less socially adequate than boys and girls who have been educated together. There is scientific evidence which supports this very strongly. Like all the other evidence it does not yet seem to have got through to enough people, but we will have to go on repeating it until it gets through.
What is the responsibility of the Department of Education in this matter? The Department of Education is quoted at page 207 of the report in paragraph 526:
The Department of Education has indicated to us, in relation to co-education, that they have neither pressed for its extension nor opposed it.
Have you ever heard a more careful rendition of that scriptural reference, which I do not at the moment recall in its detail, about those who are neither hot nor cold? This is an abdication of responsibility by the Department of Education, a responsibility with which they must now be faced following the publication of this report. This report gives them the evidence to put forward a sensible, reasonable and rational programme of co-education for the country's schools at all levels. This must be one of the Government's priorities. People talk a lot in Ireland at the moment about having a choice of school. I live on the south side of Dublin. If I want to choose for my children a co-educational school which is in the free scheme, I cannot do so. I do not think there is one or, if there is, there is no more than one. It is probably the same on the north side of the city. We have a lot of pious claptrap about the choice of school where in fact, in this very important area most Irish parents have no choice at all.
Senator O'Higgins spoke about the role of education and about the possibility for changes within the educational system. He did not hold out that much hope for it. In that I tend to agree with him. Again, this is an area where positive and imaginative initiatives by the Government will do a tremendous amount to help. I am not one of those people who believes that by changing the schools and by introducing co-education we will put an end to the discrimination against women in our society. But I do believe that discrimination against women in society will not be abolished before this happens.
I have pleasure in commending the motion to the House.