Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland public service pay tops private sector by almost one third

Pay gap: Paul MacFlynn
Pay gap: Paul MacFlynn

By Lisa Smyth

Public service workers in Northern Ireland are earning almost a third more than private sector employees, according to a new report.

Figures from the Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency (NISRA) have highlighted the pay gap between the public and private sector, with the average wage of someone working for the public sector standing at £625 compared to a £479 weekly wage for those working in the private sector.

The Department for the Economy, which published the report, has explained the difference in earnings between the public and private sector, which it said is due to differences in the composition of the workforces.

A large number of the lowest-paid occupations, such as hospitality and retail, exist almost exclusively in the private sector, while in the public sector there is a larger proportion of graduate-level and professional occupations.

"Many of the lowest paid occupations exist primarily in the private sector, while there is a larger proportion of professional occupations in the public sector," added the report.

At the same time, the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings 2019 report has revealed that weekly earnings in the public sector have increased at a much lower rate - just 0.7% - while those in the private sector have seen their pay packets increase by 3.4%.

Despite this, earnings in the private sector in Northern Ireland remained below those in the rest of the UK and are now equivalent to 84% of the average pay elsewhere in the UK.

The report has also highlighted the fact that Northern Ireland is the only region in the UK where full-time female workers earn more per hour on average than full-time male workers.

However, a senior economist at the left-wing leaning Nevin Economic Research Institute (NERI) has warned this could change due to pay rise caps.

Paul MacFlynn explained: "NI has, for the last number of years, recorded a positive gender pay gap for full-time employees. Much of the reason for this positive gap is down to the proportion of full-time female workers in the public sector.

"Over half of all full-time female jobs in Northern Ireland are in the public sector compared to only 17% for males. Gender equality in wages is much more prevalent in the public sector than in the private sector.

"However, as public sector wage increases have been limited to 1% over recent years, full-time female wages have been hit.

"This means that the positive gender pay gap in full-time earnings may be short-lived," he said.

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