State employees earn €268 more per week than private workers
PUBLIC service employees are earning €268 more than private sector workers each week, but the gap has barely changed since last year.
The average state employee's weekly wage now stands at €871, compared with €602 for private sector workers.
But the difference in pay levels in the public and private sector has barely changed in the 12 months to the end of March -- rising by just 30c.
Wages have fallen by 1.3pc across the economy since March last year, but private sector staff fared slightly worse as their working hours continued to drop.
Their pay fell by 1.8pc compared with a less dramatic 1.2pc drop in the public sector.
Although the gap in pay in the two sectors increased slightly, it has closed considerably since the recession began.
Public servant pay was €302.18 higher than the private sector in 2009. But the gap narrowed last year to €267.94, according to the latest Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures. This was mainly due to a €1bn Budget pay cut, which slashed public servants' pay by an average 6.2pc from the start of last year.
Chief Economist at the Irish Business and Employers Confederation, Fergal O'Brien, said there was still a "significant premium" for working in the public sector, despite the pay cut, which was borne out by more detailed reports.
He said if the savings under the Croke Park deal did not continue to be delivered, it was not possible to say pay cuts were off the table.
The new figures suggest private sector pay has suffered mainly because the number of paid working hours has dried up.
Since the start of 2008, the number of paid hours has fallen by 7.6pc in the private sector, but the drop in the public sector was less than half this, at 3.5pc. Yet workers in both sectors are now working roughly the same paid hours every week, at 30.6 hours in the private sector, and 30.5 in the public sector. When asked why average public sector wages are still much higher than private sector pay, the CSO said the figures were inflated due to a higher proportion of "top-end managers" in the state sector.
Overall, average weekly earnings in all sectors fell to €674 in the first three months of this year, down from €683 a year earlier.
Professional, scientific and technical workers suffered the worst drop in pay, of almost 14pc, followed by staff in arts, entertainment and recreation, where wages slumped by just under 12pc.
The construction sector saw the third-worst reduction in weekly earnings, down by just under 11pc.