Ireland is richer than EU norm but wages 6% below average

Irish workers earn 6% less than the average European employee, despite our economy being 16% richer than the EU norm.

These figures were released yesterday by the trade union Unite, under their research, The Truth About Irish Wages.

Compared to the so-called EU15 (which includes countries such as Austria, France and Belgium), Irish employees in the private sector earn €2 per hour or 6% less than their counterparts in these states. At the highest level, private sector workers in Denmark earned on average €42.70 per hour in 2015, whereas private sector employees here earned €28.70 per hour.

Irish compensation per hour in the private sector came in 18% below the average of Northern and Central European economies and 24% below the average of other small open economies in Europe. All of these figures are in contrast to a finding that shows the Irish economy to be 16% richer than the EU15 average.

“It shows that it’s not ‘poor little old Ireland’ that cannot afford wage increases, it’s a high-income economy versus a low-wage economy. It’s a wealthy country. The narrative is, ‘we’re not making the profits that they’re making in other countries,’” said Jimmy Kelly, Unite’s secretary.

He added that certain employers have been hiding behind the ‘poor mouth’ narrative to avoid paying their employees higher wages.

“They’ve jumped on that (‘poor mouth’) bandwagon and they don’t mind swimming in that particular pool under a pretence that they’re not making massive profits.

“It’s about moving the wealth of this country towards the people who create the wealth in this country and we’re going to find huge opposition from employers, they’re not just going to put their hands up and say, ‘sorry Unite has not pointed out the truth about Irish wages, here’s a bucket of money for the workers.’ It’s going to have to be squeezed out of them, but we want that engagement to start between employers, union and Government,” Mr Kelly said.

More findings showed that Ireland has one of the highest proportion of low-paid workers in the EU15. If you work in the accommodation or food services sector you earned on average €15.40 per hour last year. Whereas workers in other small open economies in Europe earned €23.90 per hour.

Michael Taft, a research officer with Unite said this study will now allow Ireland to have a debate, grounded in fact, on the issue of wages.

“Our point was not only to have a grounded debate in the actual facts so we get away from unsubstantiated assertions, by different vested interests, but also to open up and explore those issues where wages and equality become a greater issue.

“That’s an issue which the Government should learn from the recession and what brought the recession about and one of those was widening inequality. The future is going to be more equal or it’s going to be more unstable,” Mr Taft said.

Mr Kelly added that companies operating in Ireland need to be “brought to the line” on the issue of social wage. “Doing business here has to mean not just that you treat people badly, you pay low wages and you make huge profits,” he said.


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