Business Viewpoint: Time to tackle the wages gap
The push by both the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and Invest Northern Ireland to attract higher wage jobs to the province makes perfect sense when you consider the findings of the annual survey of hours and earnings for employees in Ulster.
Given that the average house price in Northern Ireland now stands at £250,000, and the cost of living here is on the rise, how can the full-time worker median wage of £21,000 gross per annum be an incentive to stay on these shores?
Average pay for full-time workers in the UK as a whole is now 12.5% higher than the median for Ulster workers - and the gap has grown over the past year.
The survey, which looked at wages as at April 2007, also showed average full-time weekly earnings in the public sector in the province (£484.2) were almost one third higher than the private sector (£364.1). On an annual basis these figures represent earnings of almost £25,200 (public) and £19,000 (private).
Is it any wonder that young people - the future of our country - are leaving in droves for Great Britain and further afield?
The poor private sector wages in Northern Ireland need to be addressed as a matter of urgency, otherwise it will be much more difficult in the future to stop the brain drain from Ulster when Britain, the Republic and many other parts of the world boast better salaries and benefits.