Irish public service pay in line with international norms

28th November 2011

Irish public service pay is on a par with OECD and EU averages when local purchasing power is taken into account, according to a new report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The second edition of OECD Government at a Glance (2011) finds that Irish hospital consultants and top central government managers – like departmental secretaries – are the only public servants paid well by international standards. However, their equivalents in Italy, Britain, New Zealand and Belgium are paid more.

Far from being out of step with other countries, as is frequently alleged, the report says that, aside from these stark exceptions, the relative purchasing power of Irish public servants is about average. Relative purchasing power is routinely used in international comparisons of pay in the public and private sectors.

The report reveals that second-rank managers in central government departments are paid at around the OECD average once income is adjusted for social contributions and holiday entitlements. This places Ireland considerably behind the UK and USA. We also trail Australia, Austria and Chile, and are slightly ahead of Norway and Spain.

Irish middle managers are paid slightly more than the OECD average, while secretarial workers are paid well below the international norm. However, public sector economists and statisticians are paid above the OECD average.

The publication is designed to provide relevant information to policy makers by measuring the comparative performance of governments, allowing them to benchmark their performance against other countries. The income data in the report is adjusted for differences in purchasing power across countries, and establishes the relative living standards of workers in different OECD countries.

Its findings formed the basis of a recent Irish Times article by Fintan O’Toole, which challenged the received wisdom that that public servants in Ireland are overpaid (‘Truth’ about public sector pay fails to stack up’)

It’s well worth reading as one of those rare pieces of media commentary that bursts the myth bubble on what you earn.