SOLAS highlights “untapped potential” of 16,000 women willing to join the workforce


SOLAS highlights “untapped potential” of 16,000 women willing to join the workforce

218,000 women between the ages of 20 and 64 are currently not participating in the workforce.  Of those, 16,000 could be attracted to join the workforce with the right supports.  That’s according to SOLAS, the Further Education and Training Authority.

The figures are included in a SOLAS research report, “Women on Home Duties”, which was launched today (01.05.19) at a joint event run by SOLAS and Dress for Success Dublin, the charity that supports women to achieve economic independence.

Speaking at the event, Nikki Gallagher, Director of Communications and Secretariat with SOLAS, said: “Women who are not currently working represent a major source of untapped potential in terms of addressing skills shortages.  Our research shows there are 16,000 women who could potentially be attracted to return to work.

“To entice this group to enter or re-enter the labour market, we need to make sure the right supports are in place for them.  Flexible working models, further education and training courses, apprenticeships, and returner programmes can all be offered to encourage women to upskill and reskill, gain confidence, and ultimately return to work.”

Childcare Duties

Ms. Gallagher said childcare was not the sole reason why some women opt not to work.

“There’s a common perception that women opt out of the workforce primarily because of childcare duties while their children are young,” she said.  “However, the research we’re publishing today shows only one-third of those not currently working have children under the age of five.

“Low levels of educational attainment, and long periods out of work, can also impact on a woman’s decision to remain at home.  Our research shows over 56 per cent of women on home duties have upper secondary education or less.  This group are less likely than non-working college graduates to have previous work experience.  Of those with previous experience, 63 per cent have not worked in the past eight years.”

Research Findings

Other findings from the report include:

  • Of the 218,000 women currently deemed to be “on home duties”:
    • 122,500 have upper secondary education or less;
    • 57,000 have third-level qualifications; and
    • A further 31,700 hold FET (Further Education and Training) qualifications.
  • Women on home duties with third-level qualifications are younger than those with upper secondary education or less: 62 per cent of those aged under 45 have third-level qualifications, compared to 44 per cent for upper secondary.
  • 47 per cent of women with third-level qualifications have children aged five or younger, compared to 25 per cent for women with upper secondary education or less.
  • 75 per cent of the women with third-level qualifications have a partner in full-time employment.  Of the women with upper secondary education or less, 48 per cent have a partner in fulltime employment, while 38 per cent are either lone parents or have a partner who is also inactive in the labour market.

Input from Sonya Lennon

Following the launch of the research report today, a panel discussion took place, with inputs from Nikki Gallagher, as well as:

  • Sonya Lennon, founder of Dress for Success Dublin;
  • Joan McNaboe, author of the research report;
  • Joyce Walsh, Head of Leadership and Talent at Ulster Bank Ireland; and
  • Patricia Stafford, a 70-year-old woman who recently completed a Digital Marketing course and now manages a website for her daughter, who is a food blogger.

Speaking at the event, Sonya Lennon said: “When women begin thinking about returning to work, they can feel very disconnected, and lacking in confidence and self-worth.

“There isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ solution to the issue of encouraging more women back to work.  A range of supports are needed, including better childcare offerings, flexible and remote working options, and targeted measures focused on upskilling, confidence-building and mentoring. These measures needs to be accompanied by a shift towards inclusive thinking, allowing these women to meet their potential, not just for their own benefit and that of their families, but also of their employers and our society.”


Contact: Emily Brennan / Martina Quinn, Alice PR & Events, Tel: 01-5582151 / 086-1658629 / 087-6522033, Email: