Gardaí are ‘best paid’ public servants, earning €1,300 a week
Public service pay and pensions bill now €1bn a year more than before economic collapse
Gardaí earn, on average, about €1,300 a week, according to figures from the first quarter of this year. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Total levels of public spending, expenditure per head of population, public sector earnings and public sector numbers have all returned to or exceeded boom time peaks, according to an annual study of the public sector by the Institute of Public Administration.
As public spending budgets have recovered from the period of austerity following the economic crash, public spending has increased at a steady pace, the study finds.
Government expenditure per head has risen to over €16,000 for every man, woman and child in the country, the tenth highest in Europe.
The public service pay and pensions bill is now almost €1 billion a year more than it was before the economic collapse. In 2008, the total pay and pensions bill was €18.7 billion. In the years that followed, it was reduced by some €2.5 billion, but since 2015 has increased sharply and is now at over €19.5 billion, the highest ever level.
Budget projections are for increases to continue in the coming years. Pensions account for €2.7 billion, or 14 per cent, of the total bill. The bill for pensions will increase sharply in the coming years owing to an ageing population.
Average weekly earnings in the public sector are increasing under all headings, with the best paid group of public servants continuing to be gardaí. They earn, on average, about €1,300 a week, according to figures from the first quarter of this year.
Total numbers employed in the public service have exceeded peak level to 323,000 this year, having fallen to 288,000 in 2013. This means that public service numbers have increased by 35,000 in the last five years.
Two out of three public servants are employed in the health and education sectors, with more than 100,000 people employed in each of these sectors.
Education is one of the best performing sectors, the study finds. Ireland’s educational attainment scores compare well to the European average, according to surveys across the EU, while Irish residents are the most satisfied in Europe with the educational system. Irish students beat the European averages on reading, maths and science, according to surveys.
Almost 90 per cent of Irish people also trust teachers to tell the truth. In health, however, there is a relatively low level of satisfaction with health care in Ireland, with 60 per cent of people saying they were satisfied, a decline of 8 per cent in the last ten years. Ireland ranks 9th best in Europe for healthy life expectancy at birth, at 72.1 years.
The rate of potentially avoidable hospital admissions in Ireland is high, however. Ireland registers around the European average on many indications. Ireland ranks 15th of the EU 27 in perceived quality of public services, just below the EU27 average, though the perception of the quality of public services has improved in the last two years.
Education is Ireland’s best scoring public service, ranking joint 5th best of the EU27 countries examined.
But public transport and childcare are Ireland’s worst scoring and ranking public service, coming 24th of the 27 EU countries examined. Ireland is also below the EU average for the perceived quality of health and long-term care services.
Public trust in political institutions — such as Government and parliament — has gradually increased as the austerity period has passed, the survey finds. While trust slumped after the economic crash, it has grown in recent years and now registers in many cases as higher than the European average.
Trust in parliament stands at 44 per cent (European average: 34 per cent) and at 46 per cent for government.
Trust in the police in Ireland has fallen significantly is now behind the European average. However, trust in public servants in general is high.