Tuesday, 17 December 2019
Ireland has more workers on low pay than any other country in the OECD except for the United States. Some 23% of full-time workers earn less than two thirds of the median income. When the national minimum wage was introduced here in 2000 it was set at this mark to bring full-time workers out of low pay. Since then, that has never been met and today the minimum wage is only around half of the median income. It should be pegged at two thirds of the median income to bring about a minimum wage that has been recognised by all.
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has just published a report showing that CEO pay in the top companies has increased by between 9% and 99% in one year. Twenty-two of the top 26 chief executive officers take home over €1 million in pay, with the highest pay reaching €8.2 million in a single year. In one company the CEO takes 212 times what the average worker earns. In recent years, Ireland has had the highest gap between the highest paid and the lowest paid of all OECD countries, which is a shocking record to have. This is not just about CEOs, but it is about high-paid workers in some industries and, unfortunately, a whole swathe of low-paid workers in others. The main thing that reduces this inequality is the relatively high level of cash transfers that we have in this country. However, even those cash transfers in tax and social welfare were not raised by the Government in the most recent budget.
Low pay means that many people in full-time work can no longer afford housing or other cost of living increases. Our cities need workers in retail, security, cleaning and hospitality. However, the bulk of workers in those sectors do not come within a mile of living and meeting the rent in our inner city areas. This is deeply unfair and socially unsustainable.
The Taoiseach is on record as stating that the cap on bankers' pay should stay in place and the Government has pledged to raise the minimum wage to €10.10 from January. Does he agree with me that we need to do much more to address this unique gap between the highest and lowest paid in the country, which makes us the worst in the OECD and outliers when compared with countries that are apparently much more progressive than we are?