Independent MEP Marian Harkin has hit out at Ireland's gender gap in the area of pensions, pay, and overall earning potential.
Ms Harkin made her comments in the European Parliament when responding to the European Commission on the issue of tackling the gender pension gap in the European Union. Ireland's gender pension gap currently stands at 40 per cent while the country's gender pay and overall gender earning gaps stand at 14 per cent and 35 per cent respectively.
Ms Harkin said: “I was pleased to hear the commission speak of survivors' pensions and of minimum income after retirement as tools to narrow this gap. The commission also indicated that there is a need to ensure credits for family carers who take time out of the workplace to care. This is an extremely important step and I look forward to hearing their detailed proposals.
“In relation to this issue, we have to answer a very fundamental question in member states and at EU level. Is it acceptable that those who take time to care for those who need care would be condemned to a much higher risk of poverty in old age? In my view it is not acceptable because society as we have designed it could not survive without family carers. Health systems would collapse and social security systems would be unsustainable.
"Therefore, as a society we must integrate caring responsibilities with our social security and pension systems, otherwise we can never hope to significantly reduce the current 40 per cent pension gap."