On April 24th, 2021 the Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality published their agreed forty five priority recommendations. A wide range of issues were covered relating to the Constitution; politics and leadership; caregiving and childcare; domestic, sexual and gender based violence; pay and the workplace; and of particular interest to the INOU, social protection.
In November, 2020 the INOU participated in a pre-recorded on-line panel that was subsequently shown to the Citizens Assembly. Amongst key points the organisation raised where:
- A Public Employment Service that is open to and available to everyone of working age who wishes to avail of the service - this would ensure that women who are not in receipt of a social welfare payment could access the PES.
- Work in partnership with the person using the service, identify and meet their needs in a meaningful way, including how to access affordable childcare.
- Set social welfare payments at a level that lifts people above the poverty line; and supports them to meet a Minimum Essential Standard of Living. Gender equality is unattainable if struggling to make ends meet remains a key issue for so many women and men.
This article will look at the recommendations on social protection and related issues.
- Adopt a fully individualised social protection system to reflect the diversity of today’s lives and to promote an equal division of paid work and care.
- Social protection services should:
- Set social protection payments and/or supports at a level that lifts people above the poverty line, prevents deprivation and supports an adequate standard of living.
- Regularly train staff to prioritise dignity and respect in all contact with clients, including giving a choice in how they receive payments.
- Take account of gender equality issues in piloting a Universal Basic Income scheme.
- Address the specific needs of lone parents to incentivise and support them in accessing work or education, including provision of child and after-school care.
- Immediately address the impact of the Marriage Bar by automatically qualifying women affected by the marriage bar for a state pension.
- Regardless of the pension model, enrolment into pension savings should be automatic and start when a person starts earning, subject to a threshold on low incomes and an opt-out clause.
- Introduce a Universal State Pension so that every resident of Ireland receives a pension upon reaching pension age.
- For Carers they noted that the State should develop an individualised pension solution for carers to ensure they have an adequate income once they reach retirement age.
- Increase the level of the income disregard.
- Reimburse the costs associated with caring.
- Increase the ceiling on the number of hours in paid work outside the home.
- Provide access to State employment and training programmes.
- Move to a publicly funded, accessible and regulated model of childcare over the next decade.
- Increase the State share of GDP spent on childcare, from the current 0.37% of GDP to at least 1% by no later than 2030.
- Paid leave for parents should cover the first year of a child’s life, be non-transferable, provide lone parents with the same total leave period as a couple and be incentivised by increasing payment levels to encourage increased take up.
Pay and Workplace Conditions
- Increase the minimum wage to align it with the living wage by 2025, while considering potential employment impacts on small businesses.
- Set targets in legislation to reduce the hourly gender pay gap to 9% by 2025 and to 4% by 2030 with a view to eliminating it by 2035.
- Support employment contract security through:
- Establishing a legal right to collective bargaining to improve wages, working conditions and rights in all sectors.
- Increased resourcing of the Workplace Relations Commission for more effective enforcement of current employment laws.
- Introduce a statutory right to reasonable access to flexible working.
If you wish to read more about the Citizens Assembly on Gender Equality please follow this link.