The recession had negative impacts on men and women15. Measures taken in response to the recession, including changes to welfare reform and restricted public expenditure, have had a further negative impact on women16. It is also envisaged that steps to rebalance the economy will have a further disproportionate impact on women; for example, the proposed further reduction of funding for public/third sector services on women’s employment17, reduced services of which women are the primary users, and potentially subsequent requirements to provide care.7
Men and women experience industrial and occupational segregation within the labour market with a gender imbalance within some industry sectors18. For example, in STEM –related professions, men outnumber women by nearly three to one19. Whilst women are over-represented in the public sector as a whole, they are significantly under-represented at a senior level in the NI public sector, with men and women holding 70.8% and 29.2% of all executive level positions respectively20. Women are persistently over-represented in administrative/ secretarial work21. Further, women are more often employed with atypical contracts, particularly part time working22, on zero-hours contracts, as well as in low paid jobs. While the gap is narrowing, more men (73.4%) are in employment than women (64.7%)23 and rates of economic inactivity remain higher among women (32%) than men (21%).24
Whilst there is a small gender pay gap in favour of women25, women frequently experience sex discrimination in the workplace, including due to pregnancy / maternity and unequal pay26.
Barriers also persist for men in seeking flexible working arrangements27. A recent report in Great Britain (2016) has highlighted that flexible working can benefit all employees, men and women, as well as employers and the economy, and expressed concern about the lack of Government policies encouraging employers to promote flexible working28. Additional barriers exist for trans people, women with multiple identities, and those with caring responsibilities, including lone parents29.
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15. For example, the loss of jobs in the male dominated construction and manufacturing sector disproportionately affected men. See McQuaid R, Hollywood E, Canduela J (2010) Employment Inequalities in an Economic Downturn commissioned by ECNI. More recently, there have been some indications of recovery in employment levels, including in construction.
16. For example, women’s jobs, including those in the public sector previously viewed as more secure, were seen to be becoming more precarious. See Hinds, B,(2011) The NI Economy Women on the Edge?. See also ECNI (2012) ECNI policy position on welfare reform.
17. See Fawcett (2013) The Impact of Service Cuts on Women ECNI (2013) ECNI Shadow Report CEDAW
18. For example, women predominate in caring, leisure and other service’ and ‘administrative and secretarial’ occupations and men are disproportionately represented in ‘skilled trades’ occupations.
19. See STEM Business Group (2013) Addressing Gender Imbalance Reaping the Gender Dividend in STEM
20. See Ballantine J, Banks G, Haynes K, Manochin M, Wall T, (2014) An Investigation into Gender Equality Issues at the Executive level in NI Public Sector Organisations OFMDFM
21. In 2015, 72.1% of those employed in administrative and secretarial occupations are women. 40.4% of all managers and senior officials are women (aged 16-64) (compared to 31.6% in 2011). ECNI analysis of LFS Q2 2015. Data obtained upon request from UK Data Service.
22. In 2015, 38% of female employees work part time compared with 10% of male employees. NISRA (2015) Women in Northern Ireland Department for the Economy
23. NISRA (2016) Quarterly Supplement to the Labour Market Report April – June 2016 Data Tables. Table QS2.1 Employment by sex, 16-64
24. NISRA (2016) Quarterly Supplement to the Labour Market Report April – June 2016 Data Tables. Table QS4.1 Economically inactive
25. In terms of the gender pay gap in Northern Ireland, in 2016 median hourly earnings were higher for full time and part-time females than males. The ratio of female to male median hourly earnings excluding overtime for all employees has increased to 90.9% (2016) from 88.3% (2015). The full time ratio of female to male earnings has increased slightly from 101.5% in 2015 to 103.2% in 2016. NISRA (2016) NI Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings Report April 2016
26. It will be noted that over a quarter of discrimination enquiries(26.2%) made to the Commission in 2015/16 related to sex discrimination and the vast majority of these related to employment; particularly in the area of pregnancy and maternity. ECNI Discrimination Enquiries Statistics 2015/16.
27. See A Hegewisch, EHRC, (2009) Flexible working policies: a comparative review
28. House of Commons (2016) Women and Equalities Committee Report on Gender Pay Gap Second report of session 2015-2016, March 2016
29. FRA (2014) Being Trans in the EU, UCD (2010); All Ireland Traveller Health Study, Carers UK (2015) The State of Caring Report 6. STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics