Dáil debates

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

2:45 pm

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I do not have those figures in front of me now, but I remember reading them in the past. I accept we have a high gap between high pay and low pay. The reason we have that is that we have a very large number of very high-paid people, particularly in the multinational sector. We have high pay in Ireland. It is not that we have low pay relative to other countries. It is that we have many people in very high-paid jobs, particularly in the multinational sector, which brings up the average.

I believe our national minimum wage is the sixth or seventh highest in the world, even adjusted for purchasing power capacity. If the pay of our public servants, teachers and civil servants is compared with other western countries, it is higher than the average. The same applies in the private sector. It is not that Ireland has low pay relative to other countries when one compares job with job.

It is the very large number of highly paid people, and especially those working in the multinational system, who distort the figures and bring up the average. Interestingly, as we are talking of statistics, Deputy Howlin will acknowledge the statistics produced by the CSO two weeks ago in the survey on income and living conditions. These figures looked at income equality and the income gap and came up with quite a different result. The survey showed that whether one uses the Gini coefficient or the other measure, income inequality is at its second lowest since records began in 2004. They are, perhaps, conflicting statistics in that the CSO says that Ireland has never been more equal, or that at least since 2004 Ireland's income inequality is at its second lowest level.

There are different ways of dealing with the gap Deputy Howlin has referred to. The Deputy has rightly pointed out that one of the ways Ireland distributes wealth is through our tax system and our social welfare system. This has an enormous redistributive effect, more so than other countries, with our relatively high taxes on those who are well paid and relatively low taxes on those who are poorly paid compared with other countries. Our tax and welfare system is the main way we deal with that gap, which after transfers makes us a very equal country relative to others.

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