Ronan Lyons | Personal Website
Ronan Lyons | Personal Website

Are lower paid workers being spared the worst income cuts?

Late last month, I posted a poll asking people how they expected their income would change this year. This was partly in response to what seemed to be a mix of shoulder-shrugging and assertions lacking data, about what was happening wages in Ireland this year. It was also motivated to counterbalance some of the quirks of the CSO methods of collecting and publishing wage statistics.

There have been about 250 responses to date, and thanks to one and all who’ve given their time so far. In terms of closing the survey off, I need about the same amount again, and ideally from different cohorts, so I’ve still some work to do!

Nonetheless, I don’t want to leave loyal readers hanging for too long, though, so I’ve delved into the data to see what we can tell this far in. The headlines:

  • Just over one in five respondents expects their income to be static this year, while a further one in five expect their income to rise. The typical respondent, though, expects their income to fall.
  • The primary factor driving changes in income is a change in basic salary, which for nine out of every ten respondents means an annual rate (as opposed to an hourly rate, which is what the CSO tries to calculate).
  • An important secondary factor, cited by one quarter of respondents, was a change in supplementary income (such as bonuses and overtime). Unemployment was cited by 10% of respondents.

The reason for the depth of questioning was to allow some sectoral and occupational analysis of the differences in income changes. While more answers are needed for a full sector-by-sector analysis, it is possible already to break the economy down into five main sectors and look at them in more depth. They are: (1) finance and (2) ICT (two sectors seemingly very well reflected in the blog’s readership), (3) public services, and two more loosely defined sectors, (4) Industry/Construction and (5) Domestic Services (including retail, professions, tourism, etc.).

The graph below shows what the typical workers expects to happen to their income this year, in each of those broad sectors across three pay groups: ‘low paid’ (i.e. below €40,000), ‘medium paid’ (€40,000-€60,000) and ‘high paid’ (above €60,000). What is interesting is that in each sector, the lower paid workers are the least worst hit. Indeed, in finance, their incomes are expected to rise.

Income changes in Ireland 2009, by broad sector and income group
Income changes in Ireland 2009, by broad sector and income group

A few other points to note:

  • The typical income in the ICT sector is expected to be static this year. This is true of well paid, middle paid and lower paid workers.
  • Top earners in industry and construction are the worst hit on average of the groups of workers shown. They expect their income to fall by more than 20% this year.
  • Public services are not an outlier at either top or bottom ends of the scale, in terms of pay adjustments. (This point about how they are changing is of course independent to where they were to start!) These sectors (civil service, health and education) also show the neatest ‘progressiveness’ in terms of pay cuts, i.e. the higher the income, the bigger the fall this year.

So far, so good. I’d very much appreciate more feedback and of course more poll responses, particularly from sectors other than finance and ICT, so that we can find out even more about what’s going on ‘under the hood’ of the Irish labour market at the moment. To complete the poll, click here.

Leave a comment