Business

Weekly wages go up - but one in five still in ‘low-paid' jobs

CHECKING YOUR PAY PACKET: Latest figures show that weekly wages in Northern Ireland rose last year
Gary McDonald Business Editor

WORKERS in Northern Ireland enjoyed their largest increase in weekly earnings last year in two decades.

Fresh data from statistics agency Nisra reveals that typical weekly earnings for full-time employees jumped by 7 per cent in real terms.

But the growth was not uniform, with several sectors still having gross weekly wages below their 2019 level.

And one in five (19 per cent) of all jobs are still deemed as ‘low-paid' - the highest proportion of any of the 12 UK regions.

The proportion of jobs paid below the national living wage - which was 1.1 per cent in 2019 and increased to 11 per cent in 2020, fell to 5.8 per cent in 2021 - and almost 90 per cent of those below minimum wage in the last two years were on furlough rates of pay.

The report said that typical weekly full-time pay increased from £529 to £575 over the year.

It was the largest annual rise in 20 years, following the largest annual decrease between 2019 and 2020.

Real weekly earnings in Northern Ireland are now around £50 higher than they were in 2011, the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings report said.

Average earnings increased by 1.7 per cent for all full-time employees over the year to £29,000, but remained lower than the UK figure of £31,000.

And the highest 10 per cent of earners in Northern Ireland pocketed salaries of £53,000 or above.

Nisra said the rise in typical pay was "driven by the large reduction in furlough, with the majority of those employees coming off the scheme receiving a 25 per cent increase in pay."

There are also "composition effects" with more hours being worked in higher-paid jobs and fewer hours in lower paid jobs.

The report said there was some evidence of non furlough-related pay increases as some sectors saw typical weekly pay rising substantially higher than 2019.

In manufacturing, for example, typical full-time weekly pay in 2019 was £518, fell back to £478 in 2020 and rose to £538 in 2021.

In construction, typical full-time weekly pay in 2021 was £565, which was slightly below £568 in 2019.

And the report showed there is still a gender pay gap for all employees (regardless of working pattern) in Northern Ireland in favour of males.

Median hourly earnings for females, at £12.36, was 5.7 per cent below those for males (£13.11).

But this is the smallest gender pay gap on record in the north, and lower than the 15.4 per cent gap recorded in the UK.

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