Public sector pay rates nearly 50% higher than those in private sector

Latest CSO figures likely to reignite public- private pay debate in the run-up to budget

Average weekly earnings in the public sector in the second quarter of this year were €919, almost €300 higher than €622 recorded for the private sector. Photograph: Reuters/Michaela Rehle

Average weekly earnings in the public sector in the second quarter of this year were €919, almost €300 higher than €622 recorded for the private sector. Photograph: Reuters/Michaela Rehle

Mon, Aug 25, 2014, 22:23

EOIN BURKE-KENNEDY

Average weekly pay rates in the public sector are nearly 50 per cent higher than those in the private sector, according to new data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

The CSO figures also indicate the pay gap between the sectors is widening.

The findings are likely to reignite the public-private sector pay debate in the run-up to the Budget.

The figures show average weekly earnings in the public sector in the second quarter of this year were €919, almost €300 higher than €622 recorded for the private sector.

They also indicate the average weekly wage in the public sector rose by €15.88 or 1.8 per cent between the first and second quarters of this year.

At the same time, weekly earnings in the private sector fell by €8.53 or 1.4 per cent.

“Even when you adjust for qualifications, experience and length of service, the public sector workers still enjoy a significant pay premium over their private sector counterparts,” Ibec economist Fergal O’Brien said.

“While there were pay reductions in the public sector during the crisis, a large proportion of these have now been offset by ongoing increments,” he said.

He cautioned that the earnings data for both sectors may be skewed by certain compositional factors related to people on higher earnings taking early retirement with others joining firms on lower wages.

Nonetheless, the Irish Small and Medium Enterprise organisation (Isme) castigated the Government for what it said was a “shameful failure to address inflated public sector pay.”

“Our State is one of the most indebted in the world and we continue to pay tiger wages to our public sector,” chief executive Mark Fielding said.

Overall, the CSO data suggested average weekly earnings across all sectors were still on the slide despite an upswing in the wider economy.

The figures showed weekly earnings dropped by 1.1 per cent to €688.15 in the second quarter of this year.

Average hourly earnings were €21.63 compared with €22.01 in the same period of last year, representing a decrease of 1.7 per cent over 12 months.

The numbers suggest many Irish households are still feeling the recessionary pinch despite recent improvements in the State’s headline economic indicators and anecdotal evidence that firms were beginning to increase wages again.

Average hourly labour costs stood at €24.89 in the second quarter, a fall of 1.6 per cent on the €25.29 recorded in the same period last year.

A breakdown of the figures shows, however, that average weekly earnings increased in seven of the 13 sectors covered by the survey in the second quarter.

The largest percentage change was recorded in the construction sector, which saw weekly earnings jump 6 per cent from €698 to €740.

The largest decrease occurred in the arts, entertainment, recreation and other service activities sector, which saw weekly earnings fall from €500 to €474, representing a 5.3 per cent.

Over the four-year period from the second quarter of 2010 to the second quarter of this year, average weekly earnings across individual sectors showed changes ranging between -6.5 per cent, for the human health and social work sector, decreasing from €727 to €680, and +11.9 per cent, for the information and communication sector, increasing from €915 to €1,024.