For those interested in earnings data, and the debate about private versus public sector pay, the CSO has just published its Earnings and Labour Costs report.  The results come from the new Earnings Hours and Employment Costs Survey (EHECS), which covers all sectors of the economy other than agriculture, forestry and fishing,  For the first time this report gives a breakdown of earnings across different NACE sectors.

Average weekly earnings for different NACE groups

The headline figures are that between Q2 2008 and Q2 2009 the workforce shrank by 6.2% (109,500), and average weekly earnings fell by 1.1% from €706.03 to €698.43.

Earnings in the private sector fell by 3.1% compared with a rise of 1.3% in the public sector (although the latter does not include the pension levy deduction introduced in March 2009).  Of course there are all kinds of reasons as to why you would expect differences in public and private sector pay, including differences in the nature of the jobs, employee education and skill levels across job types, structural organization of employment, salary cuts and job losses in the private sector, and so on.

Headline figures really do not really illuminate the issue to any great degree, and the debate as its currently expressed is largely a red herring, designed to divide and conquer and distract attention to the real issue – the mismanagement of the economy over the past ten years and the massive hole in the tax base created by naïve neoliberal policies.  That’s not to rule out per se all forms of structural adjustment given the depth of the financial crisis, but that the argument used to justify such adjustments should have some level of legitimacy and not work to undermine social harmony by pitting different kinds of workers against each other.  Getting ourselves out of this hole will be a lot easier working together and the public/private, zero-sum debate seems largely unhelpful to me.

Anyway, enjoy the xmas break.  There might be a couple of posts next week, otherwise normal service will resume in the new year.

Rob Kitchin