Belfast Telegraph

Public sector staff in Northern Ireland earn 35% more than those in private sector

By Adrian Rutherford

Public sector workers in Northern Ireland are earning 35% more than those employed in the private sector, a report has revealed.

Even though the pay gap has narrowed slightly, it is still double the difference elsewhere in the UK.

It has led to warnings that a bloated public sector is damaging our economy.

The figures are detailed in the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings published yesterday.

Other key points from the report include:

  • A typical full-time worker earns £485 a week - up 5.4% from the previous year, meaning we no longer prop up the UK's wages league table.
  • Overall, wages here still lag almost £2,000 below the UK average of £27,600.
  • The increase is most marked in the private sector - 6.7% compared to 1.6% in the public sector.
  • Men continue to earn more than women, with an 8.2% gender pay gap.

One of the most startling aspects of the report is the continuing gap between earnings in the public and private sectors.

The median weekly wage for a full-time public sector employee is £577 compared to £429 in the private sector - a gap of 34.5%. That has narrowed slightly from last year, when it stood at 40.8%.

According to a survey published yesterday by the Office for National Statistics, the public/private gap in the rest of the UK is 17.6%.

Neil Wilson from the NI Conservatives said the difference remained a concern.

"Many private sector workers will continue to be worried about these figures, which demonstrate the extent to which the non-productive part of the economy is subsidised by the productive part," he said.

"The sector pay gap emphasises, once again, the extent to which our economy is held back by our bloated public sector.

"High public sector wages harm competitiveness and hold back the growth of a dynamic Northern Irish economy." The report attempts to explain the sector pay gap. It states: "Some of the difference between the public and private sectors in Northern Ireland and the UK (sic) may be due to differences in the composition of the respective workforces.

"For example, many of the lowest paid occupations, such as bar and restaurant staff, hairdressers, elementary sales occupations and cashiers, exist primarily in the private sector, while there are a larger proportion of graduate-level and professional occupations in the public sector."

The rise in full-time earnings here is the largest since 2004, and the first increase in inflation-adjusted earnings since 2009. UK annual earnings rose by 1.6% in the same period.

However, the average yearly wage for full-time employees in Northern Ireland still lags below the rest of the UK - £25,800 compared to £27,600.

A comparison of 12 UK regions shows Northern Ireland has the third lowest median gross weekly earnings, having moved above Wales and the East Midlands.

The report also confirms a continuing gender pay gap. The average full-time working male earns £498 a week, compared to £460 for women.

Belfast Telegraph


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