The structural differences relate to the types of occupation, education standards, and length of service – all of which affect wage levels. The length of service of those in the public sector tends to be longer – by five years for men and three years for women – than those on the private sector, which affects aggregate wage levels. There is a lower ratio of foreign nationals in the public sector compared to the private sector, and foreign nationals – UK&NI, EU15 and EU15-27 – are paid less in Ireland than Irish nationals.
There is one other factor that brings itself to bear on public sector wages levels, and that is the fact that women are less likely to be discriminated against in the public sector as they are in the private sector. Gender difference in pay occurs in all occupations and professions, and although it still exists in the public sector, the gap is not as wide as it is in the private sector where gender pay discrimination works as a “saving” over the public sector.
In a previous post, I talked about how wages do not determine class, because class is a social relation, not a category. However, an analysis of wages can give us an indication of those social relations, and how they play out within our society. The NES is one such example of this, with an analysis of wages giving us a view of educational standards, and the position of women, in the public sector workforce.
Money is a form of social power. “It is one of our fundamental principles of social organization. Ownership is represented through monetary claims, and the exchange of those claims in the financial markets amounts to the social construction of ownership.” (Henwood, 1997, 11). There is very little which happens in a modern capitalist economy such as Ireland’s that doesn’t involve, or require, money. Access to it, and the amount one has, affects your level of social power.
So, while wages don’t determine your class, wages are the means by which the majority of people attain money, and the amount of money you have affects your level of social power. And the more money you have – through wages or bonuses or speculation or business – the more likely you are to be able to affect national government policy. The less money you have, the less likely you are to be able to affect government policy.
The following facts are of little concern to those demanding draconian cuts in social services – just as the facts about the fault lines in Ireland’s economy were of little concern to them – or the fault lines in the bank bailout in August 2008 were of little concern to them.
For those who are interested, though, here they are.
Distribution of Occupations
The NEC 2007 report contains analysis which makes it very clear that there are structural differences in employment between the public and private sector.
- 11.6% of employees in the private sector were managers, compared with 3.0% in the public sector.
- 46.4% of all public sector workers consisted of professional or associate professional and technical occupations, compared with 13.9% in the private sector.
- 8.1% of public sector workers fell into the sales and other occupations (mainly manual labour) category, compared with 24.5% of private sector workers. (p.10)
There are almost three times as many professionals working in the public sector as in the private sector. Not surprising, as the public sector is, well, a not-for-profit service sector, employing teachers, social workers, doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, osteopaths, radiographers, surgeons, obstetricians, gynecologists, dermatologists, welfare workers, community workers and counsellors, among others.
With almost half of the public sector comprised of professionals and associate professionals, it is not surprising that there is a higher number of graduates within the public sector than in the private sector. This reveals itself in the figures regarding the breakdown of educational attainment in the private and public sectors.
The difference that education makes to one’s employment opportunities and, by extension, wage levels, is revealed by the figures regarding the median hourly rates in 2007 by educational attainment – the median being the point at which half of the sample group are below, and half above.
The above figures do NOT mean that everyone with a third-level education is getting €23.29 or thereabouts – no more than they mean that the average hourly rate for those with a Jnr. Cert. or lower is €14.35. However, they do show that educational attainment can have an influence on your wage level. These variables need to be factored in when trying to analyse wage levels in the public sector, as 46% of all employees are professionals / associate professionals and technicals – in other words, they are the types of occupations for which a third level qualification is required.
Length of Service
The amount of years you have with your employer affects your wages. On average, civil servants have three years more service than people in the private sector. The level of service is longer for men – on average 14 years – while for women it is ten years.
In general terms, the spread of wages by age group pans out as such below. These figures are for the entire workforce, not just public sector. The point remains, though, that wages levels are affected by length of service.
Women in the Workforce
In general, women in full-time employment are paid less than men. The difference widens with service. However, the rate of difference is lower in the public sector than in the private sector.
The NEC 2007 provides us with a snapshot of wages and employment at a quantitative rather than qualitative level. And as Tom Geraghty pointed out on Morning Ireland on Thursday last, the main differences between the public and private sector occur at the qualitative level. However, it is possible to observe some of these difference in motion when we look at wages as a “way in” to the structural differences in employment and occupation between the two sectors.
The current focus on the public sector, however, has absolutely nothing to do with the structural fault lines within the Irish economy which led to the collapse of the banking system and the largest single increase in unemployment we have ever seen.
Irish banks did not collapse because the median of women’s pay in the public sector in October 2007 was 93.9% of that of their male counterparts, while in the private sector, the difference was 79.3%.
Ireland’s tax laws and investment strategies – the ones which lacerated our economy – remain, essentially, in place. The vested interests which have destroyed our economy are the ones dictating policy today. It’s incredible, but that’s the situation.
The calls for a cull of 17,500 in the Irish civil service won’t help the economy one bit while the banks and speculators remain insulated from the cuts in public services by a €60 billion guarantee of public money, and while the disastrous investment strategies they pursued – the empty houses and apartments – remain protected by our taxes.
And it is absolutely bizarre to read comments on various Irish blogs from people who have absolutely no access to that bailout, who will be forced to work longer for less, alongside a reduced education and health system, and yet think that their lives will be protected by the people who are using them, and their children, as toilet paper – something to wipe the shit off their shoes with.
Oh well. Here’s another economic plan, on a par with this one as far as dealing with structural problems.
Latest posts by Conor McCabe (see all)
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