Great pay divide revealed
Civil servants earn €300 a week more than private sector
PUBLIC sector workers earned nearly €300 a week more than their counterparts in the private sector last year, according to new figures.
And the 46pc gap between the two would be even bigger if the generous pensions paid to most public sector employees were included.
Workers in the public sector earned a weekly average of €912.84 in the last quarter of 2010, compared to €624.88 in the private sector. The official figures also showed that there was only a tiny decrease in the number of public sector workers last year despite the last Government's claims to have implemented an austerity drive.
The number of people working in the public sector in the final quarter of 2010 fell just 0.9pc to 350,300 from the fourth quarter of 2009, while the number working in the private sector fell 3.1pc to 1.12 million.
Confirmation that public sector workers earn so much more than their private sector counterparts will pour petrol on the debate over public sector reform.
The gap has remained roughly the same since it was first measured in 2008, despite a gradual decline in wages for both groups.
The latest figures contain no explanation for the massive difference but previous studies have noted that public sector workers tend to be better qualified than the rest of the population.
Public sector workers are also disproportionately employed in areas such as administration and health, which tend to be better paid in both the private and public sectors.
The Economic and Social Research Institute said in a detailed study two years ago that the gap between public and private sector pay in Ireland was "far higher" than in many other countries.
Both Fine Gael and Labour have committed to reducing the size of the civil service and implementing change through the Croke Park agreement which allows the Government to alter the way the civil service does business in return for a freeze on further wage cuts.
The figures refer to the last three months of 2010 and do not include cuts to public sector salaries introduced by Brian Lenihan in his last Budget -- this knocks 5pc off the first €30,000 earned by civil servants, 7.5pc off the next €40,000 and 10pc off the following €55,000.
However, even when the cuts are factored in the public sector workers will still have earned significantly more than those in the private sector.
The cuts were demanded by the International Monetary Fund following December's bailout.
Public sector workers endured a sharper decrease in earnings last year than private sector workers, with salaries falling 5.5pc compared to just 1pc in the private sector. On average, employees across both sectors now earn €699.46, or 2.5pc less than the €717.73 they earned in the same period a year earlier.
Employees working in firms with fewer than 50 workers earn the least, with an average wage of €559.55, while employees in firms with more than 250 people earn €822.59. A small part of this difference is explained by the extra two hours a week that employees in larger firms work.
The best-paid sectors are finance and public administration where average weekly salaries are €1,013.50 and €958.22 respectively. Worst paid of the 14 categories tracked by the CSO are people working in hotels and administration, who are paid €322.20 and €484.01. People in hotels also tend to work the fewest hours.
Among the few sectors to enjoy an increase in salaries last year were those working in the financial sector where average hourly wages jumped 3.9pc from a year ago.