How Unequal? The unadjusted gender pay gap in earnings in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland

The gender pay gap is an issue of significant policy and political concern. But what is it? And how do we measure it? In broad terms the gender pay gap is a metric that tells us the difference in the earnings of males and females in the labour market and is one of the main mechanisms used to assess the extent of gender inequalities in the labour market.

gender pay gap

This paper concerns itself with the unadjusted gender pay gap (GPG) across the island of Ireland. In so doing, it presents estimates of the scale of the unadjusted gender pay gap in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. In addition, this paper shows how the composition of males and females in the labour market differs in terms of personal/household and labour market characteristics and how pay varies across characteristics. This paper also shows how pay varies between males and females with the same characteristics. Moreover, this paper concerns itself with the measurement of the unadjusted gender pay gap and shows through the presentation of various estimates of the unadjusted gender pay gap how what we measure matters.


In terms of findings the most obvious and pertinent finding is that when we compare the earnings of males and females, females tend to earn less than males across the island of Ireland - irrespective of how we measure the unadjusted gender pay gap. There are, however, substantial differences in the magnitude of the overall unadjusted gender pay gap dependent upon measure used and characteristic assessed. There is also substantial differences in the estimates of the unadjusted gender pay gap for Northern Ireland as compared to the Republic of Ireland.


The unadjusted gender pay gap based on hourly earnings shows when the estimates are based on the median the size of the gap is larger in Northern Ireland than it is in the Republic of Ireland. The opposite is true for the Republic of Ireland, whereby the size of the unadjusted gender pay gap is significantly wider based on estimates at the mean. In many ways the overarching story of the earnings distribution in the Republic of Ireland is a tale of the top earning male versus everyone else. Whilst a similar story can be applied to the top earning female in Northern Ireland, the more dominant finding from the analysis of the earnings distribution is just how prevalent and substantial are lower earnings for females across the majority of the earnings distribution.

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