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According to a recent report from the European Commission, the number of women occupied in the current labour force in Ireland has reached a record high. The female participation rate jumped over the course of the pandemic to reach 72%, a sharp increase from the pre-pandemic level of about 67%.  

Why has the Number of Women increased in the Irish Workforce?

The shift to remote working during the Covid-19 pandemic was cited as the major reason behind the increase of women in the Irish workforce, including women that are currently working or looking to work. The introduction of remote working enabled parents nationwide to overcome previous workplace obstacles such as childcare expense/availability and a harmonious work-life balance. As a result, women in particular, were given greater flexibility and opportunity to return to work in a suitable format. 

Another reason behind the rise in the number of women in the Irish workforce is the evolving topic of gender equality in the workplace. It has been noted that Ireland has made ‘excellent progress’ with gender equality in recent years, with the number of women holding positions in senior management rising sharply to 28.8% in 2020 compared to 15.3% in 2015.

Additionally, there has been a significant increase in the number of women over 50 at work in Ireland. The health sector workforce expanded to meet the demands of Covid, and to operate testing, tracing and vaccination centres, and the data suggest that older women responded to the challenge by remaining in or returning to work.

How will Ireland be able to maintain this level of women in the Workforce?

With the removal of the majority of Covid-19 restrictions, it is now up to the employer whether or not to continue a remote working strategy or adopt a hybrid approach to a working environment. Employers will have to ensure they consider the updated needs and preferences of their current workforce in the post-pandemic era in order to maintain the job satisfaction levels of remote workers.

Where applicable, employers should consider implementing childcare policies and arrangements in order to facilitate the working mother/parent. Ireland continues to have one of the EU’s highest cost levels for early childhood education and care, highlighting it is not feasible for most families to have 2 full-time jobs.

How does Ireland compare to other European countries with the amount of women in the workforce?

Overall female working rates in the Republic of Ireland remain well below those elsewhere in northern Europe, including the UK and Northern Ireland. It is particularly surprising that female workforce participation rates are lower in the Republic than Northern Ireland as childcare provision is not noticeably superior in Northern Ireland, and also a much higher proportion of women in the Republic have third-level education than in the North.