Addressing the factors behind the gender pay gap is a multi-faceted task involving a number of Government Departments and agencies as outlined in the National Strategy for Women and Girls, 2017-2020. Overall coordination of the National Women’s Strategy is led by my colleague the Minister for Justice and Equality.
In addition, a significant body of legislation has been developed at national level to combat discrimination and guarantee equal treatment. In this regard, a large number of non-legislative measures and initiatives have helped to promote equality between women and men in all areas. The Minister for Justice and Equality is also responsible for the provision of the legal framework that provides for equal treatment of women and men.
The Low Pay Commission was established through the National Minimum Wage (Low Pay Commission) Act 2015. Its principal function is, once each year, to examine the national minimum hourly rate of pay and to make a recommendation to the Minister respecting the rate, ensuring that all decisions are evidence-based, fair and sustainable, and do not create significant adverse consequences for employment or competitiveness.
The national minimum hourly rate of pay under the National Minimum Wage Acts provides a pay floor for all workers, regardless of gender. A Research Bulletin published by the ESRI in December 2018, titled 'Minimum Wages and the Gender Pay Gap' noted that a large decrease in the gender wage gap for low-paid workers was observed in Ireland after the introduction of the minimum wage in April 2000. Before the introduction of the Irish minimum wage, men’s wages were 24% higher than women’s wages in the bottom wage decile, i.e. among the lowest-paid tenth of workers. After the introduction of the minimum wage, this gap had reduced to 5%.
The results of the ESRI study indicated that the gender wage gap for the low paid may be effectively reduced by the National Minimum Wage, provided that compliance is high, across both genders.
More recently, increases in the national minimum wage recommended by the Low Pay Commission since its establishment in 2015 have resulted in a 13.3% increase in the national minimum hourly rate of pay to €9.80; this increase has applied to all workers regardless of gender.