Dec 16, 2019

Gender Pay Gap Widens in Years After Graduation, Research Shows

Men earn 14 per cent more than women eight years after leaving third-level education, up from a four per cent difference the year after graduation.

Emer MoreauNews Editor
Sinéad Baker for The University Times

The gender pay gap among third-level graduates widens with time, with men earning an average €14 more per week than women within a year of graduating and €130 more per week after eight years, according to new research from the Higher Education Authority (HEA).

Despite female leaving certificate candidates outperforming their male counterparts, women with an undergraduate degree earn four per cent less than men one year after graduating and 14 per cent less after eight years.

The HEA study tracked the earnings of tens of thousands of graduates who left third-level education between 2010 and 2017.


The report said that “the wider Irish labour market remains strongly gender segregated by international standards despite the introduction of equality legislation, changes to tax and welfare policies and changes to the culture in relation to women’s role in work and the family over the past 50 years”.

Much of the “economy-wide” gender pay gap has been attributed to women taking career breaks for family reasons and child rearing.

The report added that the gap can also be explained by the higher proportions of men opting for higher-earning courses, such as ICT and engineering. Higher proportions of women opt for lower-earning areas such as arts and pre-school teaching.

Graduates  of arts and humanities courses are among the lowest earners. Medicine graduates have the highest earnings, followed by areas of study include statistics, chemical engineering and processes, medical diagnostic & treatment technology and other ICT courses.

The research, which was based on data from the Revenue Commissioner, covers PAYE income for employees only, with self-employment income excluded.

Graduates’ earnings are also influenced by prior academic attainment and socio-economic background, with undergraduates who attended DEIS schools earning around five per cent less than graduates who attended standard schools one to eight years after graduating.

This difference reduces to between zero and two per cent when “like-for-like” graduates are compared.

The type of higher education institution a student attended also influences graduate earnings, with graduates from institutes of technology earning 14 per cent less than university graduates four years after graduation.

When comparing like-for-like individuals, however, this difference falls to four per cent.

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