Women in Ireland earn 17% less than men and twice as many men compared to women earn over €50,000 a year.

A European Commission study suggests that Irish women in their 20s earn about 90% of what their male colleagues do.

The study suggests that Irish women in the 35-44 age group only earn 71.5% of what men earn and this falls even further for women in their 50s and 60s.

123,000 women in Ireland earn more than €50,000 per year in comparison to 254,000 men, the study indicated.

The study says that there are a number of reasons for this gender pay gap, including discrimination against women, undervaluing of women's skills and the low number of women in senior and leadership positions.

It also notes that women are the primary care givers in Irish society and this takes away from their ability to earn as much as men.

The survey found that women in Ireland are more likely than men to work in low paid and precarious work.

The National Women's Council has said it is vital that the Government acts to improve the position of women in society and in the workplace.

National Women's Council Chief Executive Orla O'Connor said: "The gap between women's and men's earning needs to be reduced.

"As the Government persists with its austerity measures, it is vital that actions to improve the position of women in our society are not sidelined."

Elsewhere, President Michael D Higgins said that women should be given a greater role in the new economic model that is being built in Ireland to replace the one that has failed.

President Higgins said despite high standards of education, women have not been afforded the opportunity to fill many key decision-making roles.

He was addressing delegates at a women's conference of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions in Belfast's Waterfront Hall.

Describing what happened in Ireland, Mr Higgins said for those responsible for creating the bubble, personal wealth and material possessions became a dangerous obsession and selfishness replaced selflessness.

In the new economic model, he said sustainability and social cohesion should have as much priority as efficiency and competitiveness.

President Higgins suggested women should be given a greater role and noted that women outperform men in educational attainment and Ireland enjoys the highest percentage of women graduates in Europe.