If you're on the minimum wage, you're most likely a woman

NERI has been profiling the nation's lowest earners...

Nearly three-quarters of those on the minimum wage are women, according to new research from the Nevin Economic Research Institute (NERI).

Of the approximately 70,000 Irish workers they found to currently be on the minimum wage, NERI has revealed that 73% are female.

Of all male employees, 2.8% earn the minimum wage whereas the proportion is more than twice this for female employees at 7% (one in every fourteen).

Other key breakdowns from the paper showed that most minimum wagers are in their 20s and 30s and that large proportions of these employees work in sectors such as accommodation, food, retail and wholesale.

More than half are aged less than 30 years, almost one-in-five are in their 30s, while 12.7% aged in their 40s. The remainder (11.6%) are aged more than 50 years.

Comparing the group to workers in general, NERI assessed the typical minimum wage employee to be:

  • on a temporary contract
  • working less than 20 hours per week
  • working part-time
  • working in the private sector

Overall, those on the minimum wage represent 5% of all employees. Some 34,000 of these are working full-time.

NERI concluded:

"Linking earnings data to household income and living standards data, it is also possible to identify that employees on the minimum wage, while not necessarily living in poverty, tend to struggle financially."

The data used was for 2014, the latest year available. The paper arrives in the context of the Low Pay Commission's ongoing considerations on the minimum wage. There has been talk of late that the LPC will recommend an increase in the current hourly rate of €9.15.

Earlier this month, the Living Wage Technical Group announced for the third year in a row that an hourly rate of €11.50 for Irish workers is a fair "living wage" that businesses should adopt, using detailed calculations of budget standards to reach a figure that would provide for a "decent life". 

Dr Nat O'Connor of the Living Wage Technical Group said:

"When you look at the numbers of what someone can afford, €9.15 an hour is simply not enough for someone working full-time. Never mind those who are working part-time."