Belfast Telegraph

Public sector staff earn 30% more than those in private firms

By Margaret Canning

Public sector workers here - from teachers to civil servants - are earning around 30% more every week than those employed in the private sector, new figures reveal.

The Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) said full-time weekly earnings in the private sector were up 1.9% year-on-year to £435 in April, compared to a 3.9% increase in the public sector to £619.

And the government statistics reveal that employees here continue to take home less than the UK average, with typical annual earnings for Northern Ireland workers of £26,000 contrasting with £28,200 - a difference of 8%. However, notwithstanding the disparities between public and private sector wages - and between wage levels in Northern Ireland and the UK - Northern Ireland pay packets were up for the second year in a row.

Gross weekly earnings, taking into account both public and private sector jobs, were £495, up 2.2% from £485 - but a smaller rise than 2014 to 2015, when earnings rose 5.4%.

This year, UK employees experienced the same 2.2% level of increase to reach £539.

Economist John Simpson said the lower private sector salaries here had become a selling-point for the province.

"One of the reasons why we have been able to grow numbers of private sector jobs is because our wages are lower," Mr Simpson said.

The ASHE also reveals that by hourly rate, women in Northern Ireland are out-earning men. Full-time hourly earnings for females were £12.48, compared to £12.09 for males.

The publication said the tendency for females to outearn males was due to more women working in the public sector, where wages are higher.

However, the earnings of women in the private sector in Northern Ireland were 83.1% of those of women in the UK.

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey warned that increasing prices meant we were unlikely to see fatter pay packets over the next few years. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the annual rate of consumer price inflation rose from 0.6% in August to 1.0% in September.

"With inflation now taking hold in Northern Ireland, combined with economic uncertainty, we may not see a third year of real-terms earnings growth," he said. "Indeed, it is those on lower incomes who will feel the squeeze the most from consumer goods like food and fuel inflation in the next year.

"There is also the freeze in child benefit and tax credits to 2020 to take into account, which will mean real-terms falls in these benefits, as a result of inflation."

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton said: "The increase in earnings for Northern Ireland employees is welcome. This is the second consecutive increase in earnings which exceeded the rate of inflation. It is encouraging that the rate of growth in full-time median gross earnings in Northern Ireland mirrored that in the UK."

Belfast Telegraph