Professionals pocket 7.4 per cent salary hikes while others feed off scraps says Abacus survey

Abacus Professional Recruitment directors Alan Braithwaite (left) and Justin Rush
Gary McDonald Business Editor

SALARIES are growing across the professions in Northern Ireland, despite uncertainties around the triggering of Article 50 and the UK’s exit from the EU, a survey has found.

For while those in the private sector are generally feeding off scraps, with zero wage movements or rises at below inflation, those in technology, accountancy and legal roles pocketed average salary increases of 7.4 per cent in 2016.

And those same people are expecting hikes of up to 10 per cent this year, according to the study by Abacus Professional Recruitment, which represents nearly three quarters of the top companies in the north.

Its results revealed that 53 per cent of employees in law, accountancy, compliance, sales, HR, IT and insurance in Northern Ireland received a pay increase last year and 80 per cent of them expect more of the same - or even better - in 2017.

The survey of 500 employees across 10 professional services segments highlighted that the average salary increase in 2016 was 7.4 per cent.

Commercial accountancy averaged best with an 8.9 per cent basic salary increase. At the opposite end, insurance sector employees enjoyed an increase of just 3.7 per cent.

But that compares with virtual wages stagnation in most non-professional sectors in Northern Ireland, where average salaries actually declined by 2.2 per cent last month, according to a survey by a separate recruitment company.

Abacus director Justin Rush said: “This research highlights that the professional service labour market in Northern Ireland remains resilient and skilled professionals are in high demand within growing sectors.

"Total compensation packages including salary increases and benefits continue to perform strongly on the back of continued foreign direct investment from some of the world’s leading companies in areas including law, technology and finance.

“The prevalence and increased competition through FDI has meant that local companies are increasingly under pressure to effectively attract and reward employees. We’ve found that salaries are being coupled with generous and creative benefits packages including flexible working, bonus, private medical healthcare, company car, study allowance, discount cards, wellbeing programmes and income protection.

“The results also reflect positive progress with regards to the diaspora in relation to increasingly diverse opportunities, competitive salaries and benefits within professional services. However attracting returners from the national and international labour pool remains a key challenge.”

Fellow Abacus director Alan Braithwaite added: “With lifestyle often the key consideration, the expansion of professional roles being offered, alongside improved salaries and benefits, is enabling great progress in tackling the so-called brain drain.”

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