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Friday 8 December 2023 Dublin: 9°C
Show Me The Money

Here is the pay gap between public and private sector workers

Earnings were generally higher in the public sector, but the gap has narrowed markedly.

THE GAP BETWEEN public and private sector wages narrowed in the years that followed the depths of the recession – and disappeared entirely for male workers.

According to a new study from the CSO that takes into account the differences between the two contingents of employees, gross weekly earnings in the public sector were 9.2% higher than in the private sector in 2011. This figure narrowed to just over 5% by 2014.

When the pension levy paid by public sector workers was excluded, gross weekly earnings were 3.2% higher than in the private sector in 2011.

However this premium became a deficit in 2014, when public sector gross weekly earnings were 0.65% lower than those in the private sector after the pension levy was deducted.

Senior CSO statistician Ken Moore said that the main thing to take from the study was that the gap between public and private sector “is narrowing all the time”.

“All the models we ran showed that the gap is narrowing, to varying scales, but it is dropping. The trend is consistent overall,” he said.

The CSO doesn’t yet have data to assess how the trends have developed in the past two years, when public sector pay demands have increased with the rebounding economy.

public and private wages 1 CSO CSO

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Income gap

Moore said several factors drove the reduction of the gap between the public and private sector earnings.

Pay in general has dropped for the public sector and gone up in the private sector.

“You could have guards in the public sector and catering in the private sector, none are like for like.”

Several agreements made between the public sector unions and the government in the wake of the recession, such as the Haddington Road agreement, saw some pay cuts and pay freezes imposed on the public sector.

Moore also noted that workers on low incomes tended to earn more in the public sector compared to the private sector, while those at the highest pay grades typically earned more in the private sector.

public and private wages 2 CSO CSO

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Women and men

Generally, the earnings gap between public and private sector wages was more noticeable among women than men.

In 2014, gross weekly earnings for women in the private sector were over 12% higher than in the private sector. For men, public sector earnings were slightly lower than the private sector for the same year.

Moore said that this was likely due to the “grades in the public service”.

“Junior grades tend to be dominated by females and higher grades would be dominated by males,” he said. “You wouldn’t have the same reflection in the private sector.”

The Unite union, which represents many workers in the public sector, seized on the CSO figures as dispelling “popular myths about public-private sector pay differentials”. It called for pay rises to be negotiated in line with those seen in other countries since 2010.

Written by Paul O’Donoghue and posted on

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