The public sector has been hit hard in the last year and the impact of the latest budgetary cut is now being realised across the country. The pain will be a lot more acute in some areas than others. The latest round of salary cuts are as follows:

• Public sector pay cut of 5 per cent on first €30,000 salary, 7.5 per cent on the following €40,000 of salary and 10 per cent on next €55,000
• Permanent pay reduction of 15 per cent for public sector workers in higher pay bands earning more than €200,000; 12 per cent for €165,000 to €200,000; 8 per cent for those on €125,000 to €165,000

Nearly 420,000* of those at work in ‘06 were employed within the public sector (21.75%). Levels of public sector employment varied throughout the country with many rural and peripheral counties, particularly in the north-west, having a much higher rate than the national average. Counties Sligo (29%), Leitrim (26%) and Donegal (26%) had the highest rates with Limerick City (19%) and Carlow (19.5%) the lowest. The rate within Dublin (4 administrative counties) was above the national average at 22%.

The highest pay reductions are due to slice into the salaries of those at the top end of the public sector, the severity of the cuts are less for employees further down the pay scale . Over 7% of the public sector were classed as ‘employers and managers’** in the 2006 Census with a further 9.4% classed as ‘higher professionals’. The spatial distribution of this group of higher earners is very much skewed to the Dublin commuter belt in the east of the country with additional pockets outside our other major cities. The ‘lower professional’ group make up 37.5%, ‘non-manual and manual skilled’ are 31% and the ‘semi-killed and unskilled’ make up an additional 13.69%.

Regardless of a public sector employees existing level of salary/socio-economic group, this budget will hurt. Certain cohorts could find themselves in real financial difficulty in the coming months – for example: parents (reductions in child benefit) who are owner occupiers of a new property with heavy mortgages (probably approved on a higher level of income than they are now receiving) and who also commute to work by car (prices have already gone up by 5c per litre) will certainly feel the full effects of the governments cost reducing measures.

Tough times ahead for the public sector worker. Taking one for the team is difficult, let’s hope there arent too many casualties. Still, steady employment is a rare thing at the moment.

Justin Gleeson

* Census 2006 Volume 7 Principal Economic Status and Industries

** Data from Socio-Economic Group (SEG) in 2006 CSO PoWCAR