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Middle income jobs being squeezed out

Wednesday, May 21 14:59:03

Recent years has seen an increase in both high-end, well paid jobs and of low-paid jobs while the middle earning jobs have become squeezed out.

That's according to the first ever Labour Market Monitor released today by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

It found that job growth has been concentrated in the relatively high-paying professional, scientific and technical activities sector and the relatively low paying accommodation and food service activities sectors.

It said that this is consistent with a long term trend of "polarisation" or hollowing out of middle paying jobs.

The report also found that, although changes in employment numbers have been more to the benefit of the over 35s, part of this is simply due to the ageing of the population.

Average hourly earnings (which include irregular bonuses and overtime) have decreased slightly, largely due to wage falls in the public sector as a result of the Haddington Road Agreement.

Private sector wages have been largely stagnant, but very low inflation has prevented the real value of wages from being eroded, it said.

In the transport and storage sectors, average hourly earnings increased by 7.5pc, (with the increase in irregular bonuses playing a minor role), while average hourly earnings fell by 8.5pc in the electricity, water and waste sectors, due in the main to a drop in irregular bonuses.

The increase in employment in the accommodation and food sectors has not yet fed into wage increases, with average hourly earnings actually down by 1.8pc. This sector has a low level of union membership (7pc according to the CSO).

The average length of the working week has increased by 6 minutes, though this has varied considerably by sector. In the mining and quarrying sector the increase has been almost 3.9 hours per week while in the electricity, water supply and waste management sector the working week is shorter by 24 minutes.

Overall the combination of a slight increase in working hours, and decrease in average hourly earnings, means that average weekly earnings have decreased by E4.46 per week (decreasing from E691.74 to E687.28), or 0.6pc.

Despite accommodation and food workers working over half an hour extra per week, their average weekly earnings have only increased by E1.61. Looking at longer-term patterns, comparing the last quarter of 2013 with the same period of 2008 the length of the average working week declined from 32.5 hours to 31.7.

The Labour Market Monitor was launched today by Congress General Secretary David Begg, who said the publication was timely, given the ongoing jobs crisis and uncertainty about the nature of new jobs being created.

"We can see a new labour market evolving, here at home and across Europe. Some worrying trends are evident, with the rise in low paid, unskilled and insecure positions a new precarious workforce. That is hardly a solid foundation on which to build a recovery."

"Information about these new trends is critical, as is good quality analysis, both of which we aim to include in the Labour Market Monitor."