Irish Economy

Are incomes rising or falling? Have your say!

19 Aug 2009

"Manufacturing and finance only account for about 300,000 employees, or one in six workers: there are another five sixths that also count."

There is much debate about the need for a real devaluation of the Irish economy, in order to stimulate employment and economic output. Many of the authors on the Irish Economy blog believe that Ireland is classic case of a small open economy that has overshot on its price level. Others, such as Michael Taft, believe this is a cure worse than the disease.

How this real devaluation would come about is of course an entirely different matter, particular as devaluation within a currency union is no mean feat and requires nominal wage falls. Aedin Doris asks, in this context, where the wage cuts are. There was much talk of the private sector being hit by wage cuts, particularly SMEs, throughout the first half of the year. However, CSO data on manufacturing and finance show wages on an hourly basis still rising, at least by some metrics.

The graph below shows hourly wages in industry and in finance in the first quarter of 2008 and again a year later. While finance wages are down over 10% in year-on-year terms, industrial wages are up over 5%.

Hourly wages in industry and finance, Q1 2008 and Q1 2009

Hourly wages in industry and finance, Q1 2008 and Q1 2009

There are of course some issues that arise from the CSO data. The principal concern is that manufacturing and finance only account for about 300,000 employees, or one in six workers. There are another five sixths that also count. And then of course there is the seventh sixth, so to speak, the almost 300,000 who had been employed in 2006 and who are signing on, and so who are at least underemployed if not fully unemployed. Also, hourly wages are not always appropriate, particularly jobs are paid salaries as opposed to hourly rates.

Given this, and given the success of my income tax quiz (over 400 responses and counting), I decided it might be time to let the people have their say, one worker at a time. Below are a dozen questions. I’d be very grateful if you could take the time to fill them all out and indeed send it on to your friends. The aim is to find out from a representative sample of Ireland’s online population what they see happening to their income this year compared to last year.

Some people may be sceptical about the quality of results from a survey posted on a private website, others about confidentiality. On the first, the level and variety of response to the income tax quiz gives me hope that if done well, it could act as an intermediate contribution to what we know about income in Ireland in 2009. On confidentiality, all clustering of responses will be done anonymously and all answers will be treated in confidentiality.

Lastly, one or two comments. Some of the choice of answers may seem a bit funny – that’s just to make sure they fit with the standard economic literature. Click on the word here if you are unsure what sector, occupation or education level you are. Also, if you start the poll, I’d be grateful if you take the time to complete it, as half-answered returns will probably end up having to be thrown out. (One extra question has been added about three hours in, so you may find when you see the responses they don’t all add up – apologies.)

And thanks for your time! As soon as I have the responses, I’ll post some initial results.

How old are you?

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What is your highest educational qualification?

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How many years have you been in the labour force (i.e. working or looking for work, not in education)?

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How would you describe your 'labour force status'?

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What broad sector do you work in? (If you are unemployed, what sector did you work in?)

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What is your broad occupation type? (If you are unemployed, what was your last occupation or what are you trained for?)

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Approximately how many people are employed at the company you work for? (If unemployed, answer with respect to your last job.)

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Where is your company HQ? (If unemployed, answer with respect to your last job.)

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Does the firm for which you work export? If so, to where?

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How is your salary or wage paid? (You can leave blank if you are not working.)

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Approximately how much did you earn last year? (Exclude any Jobseekers payments, child benefit, etc.)

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How do you expect your total income (including bonuses, overtime, etc.) to change this year? (Again, exclude any Jobseekers payments, child benefit, etc.)

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What is the top factor driving any change in your income? (Preferably pick just one, a maximum of three allowed.) Also, feel free to leave a comment below.

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Thanks again for taking the time fill this out. The more answers there are, the more interesting the findings, I’m sure, and everything will be posted up here.

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  1. Anon said on August 19, 2009 | Permalink

    death by a thousand cuts.. pay cut, bonus gone, – also have sales function as part of job & commissions well down.

  2. Ronan Lyons said on August 19, 2009 | Permalink

    Thanks for that, will change that last question to be tick-as-many-as-apply…

  3. yoganmahew said on August 19, 2009 | Permalink

    This year my income has mostly been driven by international economic uncertainty.

    I think it would be useful to also have a domestic/export question.

  4. Seanie Fitzpatrick said on August 19, 2009 | Permalink

    Not sure why you ain’t including tax! You should be looking at net incomes not gross!!!

  5. Paul Q said on August 19, 2009 | Permalink

    I never realised in coming here to work years ago just how corrupt this country is from the top down. There are so many vested interests its scary and the public semm to be either ignorant of the fact or simply dont care.

  6. Ronan Lyons said on August 19, 2009 | Permalink

    @Seanie, fair comment – I’m looking at gross first off. Knowing that, it should hopefully be easy enough to add in the net position.
    @Yoganmahew – do you mean domestically trading or exporting? I guess I’m hinting at that based on ownership, but probably not a bad question to add.

    Thanks for the comments.

  7. IT Geek said on August 19, 2009 | Permalink

    I work for a consultancy in a niche IT area that is busier now than it has been in the last 10 years. Consultancy rates being charged by suppliers have dropped (5% to 10%) but salaries have held up.

  8. Nordie said on August 19, 2009 | Permalink

    I found a few of the questions difficult, because whilst you include the public sector in one question, jobs such as the Gardai and Defence Forces were not taken into consideration in later questions when asking about renumeration and size of workforce etc.

  9. Mack said on August 19, 2009 | Permalink

    Ronan – does a fall of say 10% fall into

    A fall of between 5% and 10%


    A fall of between 10% and 15% ?

  10. Ronan Lyons said on August 19, 2009 | Permalink

    @Mack, good point. I had hoped people would be between categories, but it is of course possible that people are exactly 10% lower, if that’s the cut they’ve been given.
    I might change the figures to be a little clear. Thanks for raising this.

    @Nordie, hopefully you were able to fill out the questions as best as possible. Once you’ve ticked public sector earlier on, that will probably mean further differentiation is not fully necessary, as it might for example between private sector small exporters and larger ones. Thanks for the comment.

  11. blindjustice said on August 19, 2009 | Permalink

    Not sure how to answer some of the questions on income. I am back at college and living off savings.

  12. Ronan Lyons said on August 19, 2009 | Permalink

    Thanks for the comment – let me have a think and maybe rephrase some questions.

  13. D'Oracle said on August 20, 2009 | Permalink

    Roll on early retirement !

  14. Grace said on August 22, 2009 | Permalink

    Ronan, Thanks for this, very interesting results.

  15. kildon said on August 24, 2009 | Permalink

    don’t forget the closure of defined benefit pension schemes or an increase in the employee contributiuon to stay in the scheme (10% in my case) as well as declining employer contributions

  16. Donal Murphy said on August 26, 2009 | Permalink

    self employed. Income down due to lack of payment by creditors

  17. Kevin Ryan said on September 10, 2009 | Permalink

    Just one hint on how to improve/clarify the survey…

    Like many people, I’ve long worked in a professional services firm that has mostly Irish but also foreign clients. I ticked yes to whether my employer exports, and I hope that’s what you had in mind.

    Maybe you should distinguish, if it’s not too late, between exports of goods and services, and whether you want to capture as an “exporter” the likes of a small solicitors firm that might do a bit of work over the year for some foreign clients, e.g. as heirs to a small estate, or where the client is Irish but based abroad and paying from a foreign bank account.

  18. Ronan Lyons said on September 10, 2009 | Permalink

    Hi Kevin,
    Thanks for that – let me put my thinking hat on and see how I can improve it…

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