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Higher Female Labour Force participation directly promotes economic growth

This week the IMF published a report on ‘Women in the Labour Force: The Role of Fiscal Policies’ with an overall message that despite the increase in female labour force participation over the past three decades, women still do not have the same opportunities as men to participate in economic activities in most countries. The average female labour force participation rate across countries is still 20 percentage points lower than the male rate, and gender gaps in wages and access to education persist. As shown by earlier work, including by the IMF, greater gender equality boosts economic growth and leads to better development and social outcomes.

Karen O’Reilly, founder of Employmum and Employflex welcomes this improvement and applauds the companies who are not just paying lip service to their Diversity and Inclusion policy.
‘Flexibility is key to attracting and retaining women in the workplace – in our last survey that we conducted, the availability of flexible work was the key factor as to whether a woman ( particularly one with caring responsibilities ) remained in the workplace.

‘Companies are now coming to us asking how can they adopt a flexible work policy – we have developed a flexible work audit and toolkit that can help them take the steps in the right direction’

How does Ireland fare?

O’Reilly says ‘In Ireland the participation rate for women working in 2019 was just 56%, compared to 68% for men. For couples with children, the gap is even wider with participation rates of males in couples with children at 88% compared to 68% for women in couples.’

The IMF proposes some solutions that can close this participation gap namely:

Fiscal measures

For various reasons, related also to social norms, women face specific barriers to entering and remaining in the labour market, resulting in low labour force participation. Yet, there is ample evidence that when women can develop their full potential, there can be significant macroeconomic gains. O’Reilly suggests that we invest more in returnships for women returning to work.

Subsidised Childcare

As the duty of care for children is generally on the shoulders of the Mother, this would alleviate the financial burden, freeing women up to stay in the workplace

Taxation of the Individual

Changing the unit of taxation from the family to the individual benefits all working women in the economy.

‘We have spoken to thousands of women since we founded Employmum 5 years ago – the one thing we keep hearing over and over is that Mothers are being forced into completely unsustainable situations with long hours at work, a commute and being the COO in the homeplace as well’ O’Reilly says ‘Something has to give and it is either the mental health of the Mother or the job. Employers offering flexibility for these time poor years can make all the difference and can allow a level playing field, where educated, bright and talented women can contribute to the economy and also maintain a balance between career and family’

‘We will never be able to fix the gender pay gap, the gender pension gap and equal participation in the workplace if we continue to push women, particularly Mothers out. We can’t just helicopter women in to meet gender quotas – they need to remain in their career – flexibility allows them to do just that ’ stresses O’Reilly ‘Childcare costs are not going to change in the near future, therefore offering flexible work is a real working solution and is the future of work

‘As we reach full employment in Ireland and companies struggle to obtain talent, offering flexibility can be a competitive advantage for companies savvy enough to walk the talk in terms of a real diverse workplace’

Our flexible work audit, our flexible work toolkit and our training and coaching can help companies design a flexible workplace