Two New Reports on Equality and Recession

Gender and the Quality of Work: From Boom to Recession and Winners and Losers? The Equality Impact of the Great Recession in Ireland, ESRI, Dublin, 14 May 2014


The Equality Authority and the ESRI are publishing the following two reports today (Wednesday, 14 May): Gender and the Quality of Work: From Boom to Recession   and Winners and Losers? The Equality Impact of the Great Recession in Ireland Please find below short summaries of the two reports.

  GENDER AND THE QUALITY OF WORK: FROM BOOM TO RECESSION Helen Russell, Frances McGinnity and Gillian Kingston (ESRI) What are the implications of the current recession in Ireland for gender equality in the labour market? This study considers gender differences in both the quantity and quality of work before and during the recession using high-quality, nationally representative Irish and international data. Key Findings: Changes in Employment, Unemployment and Labour Market Participation

  • Over the recession there has been convergence, or more accurately a ‘levelling down’, in male and female employment rates.  Men’s employment fell more sharply than women’s so that the gender gap in employment rates fell from 16 percentage points in 2007 to 8 percentage points in 2012.
  • The recession brought the long-term rise in female participation rates to an end. Female participation rates declined by 1.4 percentage points from 2007 to 2012.
  • Men’s participation rates fell more steeply bringing the gender gap in participation to an all-time low of 14 percentage points in 2012. This compares with a gap of 21 percentage points in 2003 and a gap of 40 percentage points in 1990.
  • Unemployment rates increased sharply for both sexes; however, they rose particularly dramatically for males.
  • Sex-segregation played a significant role in these outcomes. Employment contraction was most severe in the construction sector which accounted for less than 2% of female employment. In contrast, women’s over-representation in the health and the education sectors sheltered them from job losses as both sectors continued to expand through the recessionary period. Women’s concentration in the public sector also protected them from job loss especially in the first years of the recession.

Changes in the Quality of Work We analyse five elements of quality of work: job security, pay, working hours, job control and work pressure. The evidence is drawn from national surveys of employees and EU surveys, such as the European Social Survey, that were carried out pre- and post the onset of recession.

  • Rates of part-time work have shown some gender convergence. This can be interpreted as a levelling down of conditions, since the bulk of the increase in part-time work has been involuntary.
  • In 2007 fewer than 3 per cent of employed men and women worked part-time because they could not find a full-time job, but by the end of 2012 more than 11 per cent of employed women and 7 per cent of employed men were in this position.
  • In terms of security, in 2010, over one-quarter of Irish workers feared that they would lose their jobs in the next six months, which was very high by international standards (16% EU27).
  •  Male employees were more likely than female employees to report that their job security had decreased in the preceding two years (37% v 41%). This was due to men working in more insecure sectors (e.g. construction). Within sectors there were generally no gender differences.
  • No data on gender differences in pay are available post 2010. Previously published CSO results suggest that there has been some widening in the ‘raw’ gender gap in mean hourly wages from 2007 to 2010.
  • The absence of recent gender disaggregated pay data means that the gender equality impact of the significant changes in public sector pay introduced since 2010 cannot be assessed.
  • Job control increased for  men between 2003 and 2009. This change appears to be due to the loss of less skilled jobs in certain sectors.  For women job control declined, leading to a wider gender gap in job control in 2009 than in 2003.
  • Pre-recession work pressure was lower for women than men, but rose more rapidly for women between 2003 and 2009, so that in the later period women’s pressure was higher than men’s. This rise is not accounted for by changes in sector, occupation, working hours and other factors, suggesting women suffered a ‘pressure disadvantage’ in recession.
  • Women’s over-representation in the public sector at least partly accounted for their higher levels of work pressure and lower levels of job control they reported in 2009 compared with 2003.

Welcoming the report, Mr David Joyce BL, Acting Chairperson of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (designate) said

"This report adds significantly to our understanding of the gender impact of the economic crisis and as the labour market recovers we will need to continue to monitor developments from a gender perspective.  It is notable that in 2013 employment grew and unemployment fell much faster for men than for women.  However as this report highlights, a lack of national data on key indicators – such as the gender pay gap - is a major obstacle to effective equality monitoring." Report author Dr Helen Russell said “The report underlines the importance of considering the effect of economic change on the quality of work as well as the numbers in employment. Rising job pressure has been a key feature of the recession, with women experiencing a particularly strong increase.”

Note:  The results are based on analysis of the QNHS (q4 2007 to q4 2012), the ESRI/NCPP National Workplace Surveys(2004 and 2009), the European Social Survey(2010),the European Working Conditions Survey (2010).

WINNERS AND LOSERS? THE EQUALITY IMPACT OF THE GREAT RECESSION IN IRELAND Frances McGinnity, Helen Russell, Dorothy Watson, Gillian Kingston and Elish Kelly (ESRI) Which groups experienced the greatest changes in their labour market fortunes and their household financial situation in the recession? This report assesses differences between groups covered by the equality legislation: men and women, older and younger age groups, different family types, Irish and non-Irish nationals, people with and without a disability by measuring the situation of these groups before (2007) and after the recession (2011/2012). The Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) is used to assess labour market outcomes and the Survey of Income and Living Conditions (SILC) is used to investigate poverty and material deprivation outcomes. The report investigates differences between groups and change over time using statistical modelling, to account for other factors such as education which may influence outcomes. Results presented are derived from these models. Key Findings: Age

  • Unemployment rates of the youngest age groups were particularly badly affected. For 20-24 year olds the modelled unemployment rate  grew from 6 to 23 per cent between 2007 and 2012, significantly faster than for adults aged 35 to 44 (from 4 to 14 per cent).
  • Employment rates fell sharply for the under 25s, and  also declined more sharply for those aged 25-34 than prime age adults (35-54 age groups).
  • Over the period the rate of deprivation more than doubled across the population, from 11.8 to 24.5 per cent.
  • Among age groups, in both 2007 and 2011 the highest net rates of deprivation are recorded for children under 14 (32 per cent in 2011): the deprivation rate was lowest for the over 65 age group in both years (11 per cent in 2011).


  • As found in the ‘Gender and the Quality of Work’ report, men were harder hit by unemployment than women.
  • Employment rates fell more for men than women, so the employment gap between men and women narrowed between 2007 and 2012, even after accounting for education and other differences. This confirms the findings of the gender report: there has been a ‘levelling down’ in employment rates.


  • The unemployment rate of East European and African nationals increased more than for Irish nationals.
  • In 2011 just under one third of the non-Irish nationals experienced basic deprivation compared to one quarter of Irish nationals: pre-recession differences between nationality groups  were largely maintained.

Family Status and Marital Status

  • In 2012, levels of modelled unemployment were highest among never married lone parents (25 per cent), formerly married people without children (21 per cent) and those cohabiting with children (22 per cent).
  • In both 2007 and 2011 income poverty and basic deprivation were highest for never-married lone parents, among whom 32 per cent were income poor and 49 per cent were materially deprived by 2011. Rates were similar for formerly-married lone parents.
  • In terms of change over time, formerly married people without children and cohabiting parents were found to have experienced a steeper rise in unemployment between 2007 and 2012.


  • The labour market disadvantage experienced by people with a disability remained fairly stable between 2004 and 2010, the only years for which information is available.
  • Between 2007 and 2011 there was a narrowing in the income poverty differentials and deprivation gap between people with a disability and those without. Yet even in 2011, poverty and deprivation rates were substantially higher for those with a disability than those without.

Welcoming the report, Mr David Joyce BL, Acting Chairperson of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (designate ) said

‘Recession and austerity have had highly negative effects on employment, incomes and living standards in Ireland.  This report provides the kind of detailed equality analysis that is required to ensure that  the  risks facing particular groups covered by the Equality Acts are identified and factored into policy.’ Report author Dr Frances McGinnity said ‘There are no clear ‘winners’ in this report: we find rising unemployment and deprivation across the population. However significant inequalities between groups existed in Irish society before the recession, and to a large extent these persist, though some groups certainly lost more’.

Note:  The report investigates differences between groups and whether these differences havechanged  over time using statistical modelling. The modelled results differ from the headline employment, unemployment and poverty figures because they hold constant other differences between groups such as education, region, nationality and estimate the ‘net’effect of the characteristic of interest, such as gender. 2012 was the latest available data from the QNHS and 2011 the latest available data from the SILC at the time of writing.