This paper formed part of the conference to mark 50 years of social research at the ESRI. It provides an overview of gender equality in the labour market in Ireland over a 50-year period. It takes as its starting point two studies published by ESRI researchers in the early 1970s including a survey of women carried out in 1973. Five themes are identified in these early studies, which are then carried through to the current period. These are: patterns of female labour force participation; gender segregation; sectoral labour demand; attitudes; and appropriate policy responses. The study then outlines how many of the normative, legislative and institutional constraints to women’s employment were removed during the following decades and discusses key educational and fertility trends that influenced labour force participation. Policy responses have also shifted over the period. We find that while there has been distinct change in the normative culture, a major upward shift in the scale of female employment, and a decline in gender segregation, women’s and men’s employment remains strongly gendered.
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