Updated: 1.32 am
EARLY IN DECEMBER, we asked if you had any nagging questions remaining from 2016, about claims or facts or statistics you heard again and again over the course of the past 12 months.
We were inundated with excellent suggestions from readers, and picked out the very best ones.
For the third installment, we’re looking at the pay of Irish politicians compared to their counterparts in other countries.
We’ve had several queries about this subject over the past year or so, including one related to politicians’ pay, earlier this month.
For this fact check, we’ve researched the basic salaries of TDs and their counterparts throughout the EU, as well as some heads of government.
Calculating politicians’ pay is fiendishly complicated, with some countries applying bonuses indexed to years of service, as well as extra allowances for travel, accommodation and administrative support.
Similarly, countries have various different pension arrangements for their parliamentarians and senior office holders, and in some cases, they are not made public.
Likewise, tax is levied based on an individual’s overall income, including income not related to their political office, so several countries cannot disclose what a politician earns after tax.
For these reasons, and for the sake of simplicity, we’re presenting the basic, gross (pre-tax) salary of members of the lower or most prominent house of parliament throughout the EU.
(Where a country has only one house of parliament, known as a “unicameral” system, we’ve included figures for these members here).
It’s important to note that these are only the basic salaries. In most parliaments, members can and do earn above this amount, by holding certain positions (speakerships, leadership of political groupings, ministerial office, and so on).
Members of Parliament
As you can see, members of the lower house of the Irish parliament (TDs), rank 7th out of 28 EU countries, when it comes to their basic, pre-tax salary.
The top three in Europe all have a gross annual salary of more than €100,000: members of Italy’s Camera dei Deputati (Chamber of Deputies), with €125,220; members of Austria’s Nationalrat (National Council), with €121,608; and members of the German Bundestag (Federal Diet), with €108,984.
The basic annual salary of a TD (€87,258) places Dáil Éireann between the UK House of Commons (£74,962 or €88,725, based on an early December exchange rate) and the Belgian Kamer van Volksvertegenwoordigers (Chamber of Representatives), with a basic salary of €86,064.
The EU parliaments with the lowest basic salaries are: Romania with €14,345 for members of the Camera Deputaţilor (Chamber of Deputies); and Bulgaria with €18,314 for members of the unicameral Naradno Sabranie (National Assembly).
However, it must be stressed once again that these figures are basic salaries only, with many members earning above this level.
To get a truer sense of how much politicians really make, though, we need to put these amounts in the context of each country’s broader economy, and link them to the average person’s income.
There are several ways to to do this, but the only source that provides relevant, uniform, pre-tax data for all 28 EU member states is the World Bank.
We’ve taken the GNI (Gross National Income) per person for each country in 2015, the most recent year available, which allows us to compare the salaries of politicians to the average resident of their country.
The relatively high salary of Italian MPs is set in even starker contrast here, when you see that GNI per capita in Italy is more than four times less – at €29,599.
Meanwhile Greek MPs, although they earn less than half their Italian counterparts, rank second by this measure, their €61,620 basic salary more than three times higher than GNI per person in Greece, which is €18,331.
When salaries are put in this context, TDs rank 19th out of 28, earning 1.84 times Ireland’s GNI per capita, which was €47,434 in 2015.
Heads of Government
We were able to obtain official, reliable figures for 20 out of 28 EU member states. Here they are, ranked according to the ratio between the annual basic salary of each Head of Government (usually Prime Minister) and GNI per person.
As you can see, German Chancellor Angela Merkel tops the table among these 20 EU heads of government, with a basic pre-tax salary of €232,396 as Chancellor and €94,559 as a member of the Bundestag – a combined salary of €326,955.
This constitutes almost 8 times Germany’s GNI per capita.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny ranks fourth out of these 20 heads of government. His combined TD and Taoiseach’s salary of €185,350 places him between Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen (€199,407) and Prime Minister Xavier Bettel of Luxembourg (€182,770).
However, Bettel’s basic salary is only 2.63 times greater than Luxembourg’s GNI per capita of €69,464.
By comparison with GNI per person, Enda Kenny’s salary places him right in the middle of the rankings, earning 3.91 times the Irish average.
The five heads of government with the lowest basic salaries all come from the post-2004 accession states in Eastern Europe: Bulgaria, Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania and Croatia.
Irish TDs and our Head of Government all have relatively high basic salaries (members of Dáil Éireann rank 7th in the EU, and Taoiseach Enda Kenny ranks 4th out of 20 EU countries).
However, when these amounts are compared to the average resident (using GNI per capita as a proxy), the pay of Ireland’s most prominent national political officials is far from outrageous, at least by comparison with elsewhere in the EU.
This ratio places our TDs’ salaries 19th out of 28 countries, in the bottom half, and Enda Kenny’s basic salary ranks 10th out of 20.
To download a spreadsheet containing all the relevant data, click here.
Correction: Previously, the first two charts above described data as relating to the salaries of “upper house” members of parliament. In fact, the data related to the salaries of lower house members of parliament, as was made clear in the body of the article itself.
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