| 3.9°C Dublin

Private sector staff hit hardest as wages drop

WORKERS are being paid €542 less on average than a year ago.

The squeeze on wages has continued, as average yearly earnings fell from €36,522 to €35,980 in the space of 12 months, according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

Cuts in the hours worked each week as well as employees' pay rates meant their incomes shrank by 1.5pc.

Private sector workers bore the brunt, as their pay slumped by 2.1pc compared with just half a per cent in the public sector.

New figures reveal that a drop in income is piling pressure on workers as they face other burdens including the household charge, hikes in VAT and soaring fuel prices.

Recent employer surveys show most are freezing wages, but the pay cuts that are taking place, combined with shorter working weeks, are driving down incomes.

Construction workers suffered most as their earnings plummeted by a massive 15pc over 12 months since the end of 2010.

Workers in arts, entertainment and recreational services were also hard hit and are being paid 13pc less than they were then.

But it was not bad news for staff in all industries, as some enjoyed increases in their take home pay of up to 6pc.

They included engineering, legal, and accounting staff, as well as management consultants, vets, and staff involved in scientific research and development, and advertising.

The official CSO figures were released as it emerged that women are facing poverty and lower pensions because they are being paid 12.6pc less than men.

A new European survey shows the gap between the sexes' gross hourly earnings has narrowed in recent years to 16.4pc, from an average of 17pc a few years ago.

Women

The rate ranges from around 2pc in Poland to 19.5pc in the UK and over 27pc in Estonia.

The European Commission said the gap reflects women's problems balancing work and their private life.

"Many women take parental leave and have part-time jobs," it said.

"Despite the generally slightly positive trend, there are member states where the gender pay gap is widening, such as Bulgaria, France, Latvia, Hungary, Portugal and Romania."

The Irish National Teachers' Organisation said that the average annual salary for a female primary teacher was 93pc of a male teacher.

One of the reasons for the big difference in wages is the fact that there are many younger women in education -- so they are on the lower end of the salary scale.

In addition, very few are promoted to senior roles like school principal.

"Despite the increasing number of female teachers at primary level they remain under-represented in leadership roles," said General Secretary Sheila Nunan.

"The difference is mainly due to an over-representation of men in senior positions and the fact that many women have had broken employment over the years mainly for childcare reasons."

She said the percentage of principals who were women was 63pc, although this had increased from 51pc in 2003.

Irish Independent