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Why we should worry about chopped Central Bank graduate pay

The regulator is offering graduates a starting salary 12% down on its 2009 equivalent

Central Bank pay may be reflective of wider earnings trends. Photograph: Alan Betson

One of the Central Bank’s core functions is economic forecasting and analysis, so you would expect it to have its finger on the pulse of labour market trends. The fact, then, that it is offering its new intake of graduates a 12 per cent mark-down on boom-time salaries should be of concern – and not just to fourth-year college students.

Last week the regulator opened its graduate recruitment programme for 2017-2018, looking for people who wish to “make an impact at the heart of Ireland’s financial system”.

In what will be the largest graduate intake by the Central Bank in recent years, the regulator is looking to recruit 50 graduates for its three-year programme across two streams: finance and risk, and data analytics.

In addition to its efforts to recruit health-conscious millennials with benefits such as “fresh fruit Wednesdays” and fitness classes, the regulator is also offering a starting salary of €29,000.

That’s in line with the average graduate starting salary of €28,554, according to GradIreland, but represents a significant diminution of what the regulator used to offer. When the Central Bank first launched its graduate recruitment programme in 2009, it offered a starting salary of about €33,000.

Fast-forward to 2015 and the salary had plunged to €28,000, a drop of about 15 per cent. While the latest offer of €29,000 may represent an improvement, it is still about 12 per cent short of the 2009 salary.

Pay conditions at the Central Bank are “informed” by the general public sector pay policy. However, while the regulator is covered by the Fempi (Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) legislation, which governs public sector pay, the Central Bank says pay and conditions are still a matter for the bank itself.

The regulator has, in the past, paid retention bonuses outside the scope of public sector pay agreements to senior staff to keep them with the bank.

So it may also be reflective of wider earnings trends.

In the UK economic research institute the Institute for Fiscal Studies has described the past 10 years as a “lost decade” for earnings growth. It says real wages in 2021 will be actually lower in the UK than they were in 2008. In Ireland, earnings growth has only just started to take off. And if the Central Bank’s new recruits are anything to go by, it’s going to take some time to recover boom-time earnings – never mind surpass them.

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