Saturday 26 May 2018

The Living Wage is a fine idea provided you have a job

Brendan Keenan

Brendan Keenan

A foreign economist studying Ireland many years ago observed that any country which regarded the average industrial wage as inadequate had a bit of a problem. A slight exaggeration of our attitudes, perhaps, but he had arrived during one of our periodic bursts of wage agitation, and who is to say that there may not be another.

That old bugbear, keeping wages consistent with long-term stability, is still with us. Today's average industrial wage is around €35,000 a year. Average earnings are higher, at around €40,000. Some people prefer the "median" figure, where half the workforce earns less and half earns more. That is put at €32,500 a year.

The unions make much of the fact that, after 18 years, a civil servant in the bottom grade earns the average industrial wage. This is portrayed as an example of low pay. Hmm. They make less of the fact that a principal officer is in the top 10pc of earners - a category they tend to describe in different contexts as "the rich".

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