PRIVATE sector workers' earnings rose faster than public servants' in the last year - but they still make more than €14,000 a year less.
New figures reveal the average private sector worker's weekly wage increased 84c more than a public sector worker's over 12 months.
The average private sector employee's wages rose by almost 4pc, or €23.64, a week in the year to the end of June. This compared with a 2pc, or €22.80 hike, for State employees.
But average public sector earnings are now €959.09 a week - or €50,045 a year - compared with €35,645 in the private sector.
This represents a 40pc gap, which has not narrowed in recent years.
The figures were published as Health Minister Simon Harris gave nurses and doctors hope that their demands for pay rises may be granted. Mr Harris said he believes there are "challenges" retaining staff in the health service.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) warned it may consider "alternative actions" if the Government does not make a serious pay offer this month.
However, a recent Department of Expenditure report denied there has been a mass exodus of nurses and insisted their pay is competitive.
It is also possible the Government may make concessions on unions' demand to give recent entrants' equal pay in the Budget.
Business group ISME called for a reduction in the public-private sector pay gap to 10pc by 2025, but this seems highly unlikely given public servants are already in line for pay rises worth 7pc under a current deal up to 2020.
Fórsa, which represents 80,000 public servants, argued the Central Statistics Office's earnings figures do not compare like with like. It said it does not compare people doing similar jobs, or with similar qualifications, age and experience.
It also pointed out low-paid sectors, including retail and hotels, drag down wage levels in the private sector.
ISME chief executive Neil McDonnell said some gap is understandable given these factors, but claimed the extent of the gap is not justifiable "by any measures applied by the CSO's contemporaries elsewhere".