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Lauren Bari

Email Address: 
Dr. Tom Turner & Dr. Michelle O’Sullivan
Working Title of Thesis: 
Women's place in the Irish labour market: Trends, Employment Status and Occupation levels'.

Women grapple with multiple contradictions in modern Irish society. On the one hand, the legal framework and the Constitution, influenced by the Catholic Church, endorses women’s role as homemaker; a role many feel offers too little in terms of choice and independence. On the other hand, Ireland’s wholesale adoption of neo-liberal economic policies press women to participate in a labour market in which they are heavily disadvantaged. Falling real wages and high housing costs mean the dual-income family is as much of a necessity as a choice. Lone parents often have to combine precarious work with state benefits to make ends meet. Individualism, autonomy and economic self-sufficiency, the cornerstones of neo-liberal ideology, are often incompatible with family life.
‘Flexibilisation’ of the labour market is seen by the government and the EU as crucial in order to protect the interests of employers and maintain competitiveness. Non-standard or atypical working arrangements are sold to women in particular as being advantageous and offering flexible working hours while the reality is that temporary, casual and part-time work often leads to income insecurity, a lack of opportunity for vertical mobility and a heightened risk of poverty in the long term. Entrepreneurship, another fundamental principle of the neo-liberal model, is presented as offering a solution for working mothers but, for many, offers little more than precarious work thinly disguised.
It is against the backdrop of social and cultural transformation, conflicting ideologies and intensely market-based economic policies that I examine the position of women in the Irish labour market. Using Quarterly National Household Survey data, I use quantitative research methods to reveal trends in the position of working women, paying particular attention to the extent to which certain precarious work arrangements are gendered. Drawing on theories of labour market segmentation, gender-stratification and human capital theory I will look at the impact of household structure, age and occupational sector and also consider time and skills-based underemployment as it relates to women.
High childcare costs, a heavy ‘motherhood penalty’ in the workforce and a welfare regime built on a now-impossible male breadwinner model leaves many Irish women battling with competing priorities, causing personal and household stress. This research is important in order to reveal any patterns in working arrangements that may risk undermining progress towards equality and a shared work/valued care model.

Employment, Gender, Labour Market Inequality, Precarious Work.
Details of any scholarships/funding received: 
Deans Scholarship 2014-17
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