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Ireland's economy might be picking up, but workers' earnings are still going backwards

Workers in the public sector get nearly 50% more on average than those in private companies.
Nov 25th 2014, 12:53 PM 9,727 53

IRISH WORKERS ARE getting paid less than they were a year ago despite the flow of good news coming out of the economy.

In a sign economic recovery is yet to filter down to most employees, the latest figures show average earnings are still on the slide – even though workers are taking on more hours.

Only one sector, for generally low-paid administrative and support services workers, had an average increase in earnings over the past 3 months.

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) said average weekly earnings across all sectors stood at €671.70 for the three months to the end of September – down 0.8% on last year.

That drop came in spite of the average amount worked over the period going up slightly to 31.9 hours per week.

Chart1 Source: CSO

Earnings in the information and communications sector were the highest at €1016.48 per week, although this figure has also fallen slightly over both the last 3 months and year.

The IT industries have still had easily the highest wage increases over the past 4 years with average earnings going up 7.6% since 2010.

In comparison, earnings for workers in the education sector have gone down 10.8% during the same period, while those in the worst-paid sector, hospitality, have suffered a reduction of 4% to €320.65 on average.

The biggest drop over the past 3 months came in the sector with the second-highest average earnings, the financial, insurance and real-estate industries, where workers got 6.1% less.

Public sector workers get 47% more on average

Earnings for workers in both the private and public sector dropped, although employees in government and semi-state bodies still earned about 47% more on average for every hour they worked.

Members of the Garda Siochana were the best-paid per week at €1182.92, while those in defence were the lowest earners getting an average of €810.40 a week.

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chart Source: CSO

Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME) chief executive Mark Fielding seized on the figures to call for a public-sector pay freeze to get rid of “one of the unwanted legacies of the Celtic Tiger era”.

The private-sector is no longer willing to pay for excessive public sector wages through high taxes and the loss of private sector jobs and businesses,” he said.

But the CSO says its figures shouldn’t be used as a tool to compare public and private sector wages as its survey didn’t “take account of compositional difference between sectors, such as occupational mix, sectors of activity, gender balance, union membership”.

IPU Meetings ISME chief executive Mark Fielding Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Instead, it pointed to earlier research which showed the gap between private- and public-sector wages stood between 6.1% and 18.9% in 2010.

Experts have previously warned the average-wage figures are skewed by the number of well-paid officials at the top tier of government bodies and quangos, which are included in the public-sector figures.

Meanwhile, unions have been pushing for pay rises for members with the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union (TEEU) pushing for a 5% wage hike for workers after “seven years of hardship”.

Low- and mid-level Bank of Ireland staff recently stuck a deal with their employer for a one-off 5% bonus and other pay rises after the bailed-out bank posted a profit.

READ: Ireland has the second-highest percentage of low-paying jobs in the world >

READ: Nearly everyone in Ireland will have a job again by 2020* >

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Peter Bodkin


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