Business Irish

Monday 27 January 2020

We're working longer hours and are being paid less

Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

We are working longer and earning less, according to the latest data on wages from the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

But the results vary massively from one industry to another, and especially between the public and private sectors.

Average weekly earnings fell to €688.15 by the end of June this year, down from €695.53 a year earlier, according to preliminary data from the CSO.

That works out at €21.63 an hour.

But pay in the public sector - including semi-state companies such as the ESB and Irish Rail - is almost 50pc higher at €918.86 a week, or €28.48 an hour.

Average pay in the private sector, across all grades and all industries, was €622 a week, or €19.63 an hour.

In a year, it means private sector workers are making €35,780 on average before tax, compared to €47,780 in the public sector.

The figures show the gulf between working for the state compared to any other sector remains huge, despite pay in the public sector falling faster than it is among those working for private companies so far this year.

Average weekly earnings in the private sector decreased by less than a third of 1pc in the year to the end of June, but fell 1pc in the public sector.

At €1,236.09 a week, gardai command the highest weekly pay, on average, in the public sector. Staff at the semi-states earn €1,032.09 a week, on average, while the Defence Forces are the lowest paid on average, making €821.16 a week.

The latest figures reveal that the length of the average working week increased however, to 31.8 hours in the same period. That's up slightly on the previous year, and a sign the economy is cranking back into gear, even if it has yet to translate into wage rises.

Unsurprisingly, the most gains are being made by sought-after IT workers.

Pay for the IT sector is up close to 12pc since 2010, fuelled by demand from multi-nationals like Apple, Google and Facebook, as well as increasingly well funded home-grown start-ups.

In the same four years average pay among health workers fell 6.5pc, a period that coincided with the controversial cut in starting salaries for graduate nurses from €26,000 a year to €22,000.

Hourly pay is the biggest contributor to the overall cost of hiring staff, and seen as a crucial barometer of competitiveness.

So, while it has been tough on employees, the downward trend in earnings has boosted Ireland's ability to keep and attract employers.

Data released by the EU earlier this year put Irish labour costs at €29 an hour on average, once employers' tax is factored in. Those figures exclude farm workers and civil servants and those working in very small companies, however. But it is only slightly more than the eurozone average of €28.

It is far in excess of costs in the old eastern Europe however, where employers can expect to pay less than €5.

It costs just €3.70 an hour to employ a worker in Bulgaria, compared to €40.10 an hour in Sweden.

The cost of employing workers in Ireland has barely increased at all since 2008, whereas throughout Europe wage costs are up 10pc since the recession kicked in, according to the EU's Eurostat agency.

Irish Independent

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