Freezing civil service pay could cover £800 million of the massive savings the Assembly must make in its new budget, experts giving evidence to the Finance Committee have said.
First Minister Peter Robinson has already signalled that agreement is close in talks on brokering a budget following the £4 billion in cuts ordered by Westminster for the next four years.
The economists John Simpson and Victor Hewitt gave evidence to the committee on the best way forward and backed the view that major savings could be made by a pay freeze.
The DUP and the Ulster Unionists are already among those who have called for a pay freeze for some civil servants.
It is understood the percentages presented to the committee suggest a saving of around £800 million could be made if a large-scale freeze is introduced.
Mr Simpson raised a number of cost saving issues with the committee, and added: "What are you saying for the next four years about the public sector pay bill?
"Are you prepared to commend the freezing on public sector pay, on the same formula as is being adopted London-wise and is being adopted in Edinburgh.
"It seems to me that will prospectively save you maybe 40% of your total savings.
"And the basic question is, is it better to continue to employ 95 people at slightly lower pay or to only employ 90 at the continuing rate of pay.
"And it's that sort of trade-off; it's 4 or 5% of your labour force might be involved."