Why more women are unemployed than men

By Suhasini Srinivasaragavan

A CSO report released on March 1st shows an overall reduction in unemployment levels. However, on average, more women are still unemployed than men. 

John Mullane, a statistician in the labour market analysis section at CSO says, “the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for February 2023 was down to 4.3 per cent…lower than the pre-pandemic level of 4.8 per cent”. 

116,500 persons are unemployed this month, compared to 122,200 persons same time last year, a reduction in total unemployment by 5,700 people.

Mullane adds that in the same month, the unemployment rate for males was 4.0 per cent, while for females, it was 4.7 per cent. Furthermore, the seasonally adjusted rate for women remained and still remains unchanged for months, while it fell by over 1,600 men in the last month alone. 

This has been a trend for years, as more women, on average, have remained unemployed than men. 

Seasonally adjusted monthly unemployment rate

Ciaran Nugent, an economist with the Nevin Economic Research Institute, says that the unemployment rate has been coming down and is at a “good level”, adding, “not quite record level, but close to.”

Young people from 15-24 are faring worse. “For younger people, the unemployment rates are still high, above 10 per cent. This is because we still haven’t quite recovered from the financial crash of 2009”, Nugent says.

Seasonally adjusted monthly unemployment by sex - persons aged 15-24 years

The workforce is still very gendered

“There’s always a gap between men and women, and there’s especially a big gap in Ireland as compared to other European countries”, says Nugent, adding that this gap widens when families have children. “Women in their thirties or forties tend to drop out of the labour market”. He says that familial roles in Ireland are still highly gendered. 

Nugent points out that “the unemployment rate does not actually count all those who are unemployed, rather only the people who are actively seeking work”. He adds that “men are more likely to be seeking work than women”, adding to flaws in the composition of many statistical reports. 

Mothers are employed too

Childrearing is an economic activity, according to many sociologists. Nugent says that “economics as a discipline tends not to look at motherhood as an economic activity because there is no clear monetary value to it”. However, he adds that “there is obviously an economic value to raising children as they are producing future workers. They are training and socialising future workers…this is clearly a very valuable”.

“This is unfortunately also the case in calculating GDP as well”, he says. 


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