Why the Irish Constitution Must Recognise Workers In the Home and Pay Equity

By Maggie Ronayne, Ireland Current Affairs Weekly, 2 September 2005

Some say Article 41.2 of the Constitution is sexist and should be abolished.  While it is sexist to refer to work in the home as a woman’s “life” and “duty”, it would be even more sexist to obliterate the only constitutional recognition of unwaged caring work done at great personal cost by generations of women, and its vital contribution to society’s survival and welfare. 

Article 41.2 should reflect the value of unwaged work, the skill of the workers who do it and the entitlements it should earn them.  This would help end the discrimination women suffer both as workers in the home and workers outside, where their segregation in low paid service work, much like the caring work most of us do at home, is widespread. 

And pay equity, equal pay for work of equal value, should be added to the Constitution – a commitment to end the sexist pay gap between women and men.

To enshrine the principle that caring work in the home – which extends to caring for the community, and in rural areas to caring for the land and the environment – is valued socially and economically, would raise all women’s status and entitlements.  It would also put women in a stronger position to demand that men, who often miss out on children’s upbringing, become carers too.

Decades of campaigning have won United Nations recognition and legislation in Trinidad and Tobago and Spain.  In 1999 Venezuela set a new standard: its Constitution recognises work in the home as “an economic activity that creates added value and produces social welfare and wealth”, and “entitles housewives to social security”
Let’s extend this victory to Ireland.  Endorse our wording.

Article 41.2.1 

The State recognises caring work done within the home, often extending to the community, as a social and economic activity that produces social welfare and economic wealth, and entitles carers, starting with mothers, to economic and other support.

The State also recognises that in rural areas caring work has included work on the land which has kept families and communities alive and strong despite poverty and emigration.

Article 41.2.2

The State shall therefore ensure that carers, starting with mothers, are not obliged by economic necessity to engage in waged work which would increase their workload, and shall provide workers in the home with independent remuneration and pensions.

Additional Article 41.2.3

The State shall also ensure that women, particularly mothers who do most of the vital work of caring for children and/or other dependents, do not suffer discrimination in wages, pensions, health care and social welfare when they go out to work, and that pay equity, that is, equal pay for work of equal value, is fully implemented.

Global Women’s Strike, Ireland: Tel: 087 7838688 
Email: Ireland@allwomencount.net 
Website: www.globalwomenstrike.net