Northern Ireland Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings Statistics

Date published: 29 October 2019

The Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings 2019 was published today by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency.

Employee Earnings in Northern Ireland
Employee Earnings in Northern Ireland

Weekly earnings increase in nominal and real terms in NI and UK

  • Median gross weekly earnings for full-time employees (“weekly earnings”) in April 2019 were £535, an increase of 3.3 per cent from £518 in 2018. The increase was larger than the UK average (2.9 per cent) but one of the smallest increases in the UK. This has resulted in NI earnings dropping from the fourth lowest to the second lowest of the UK regions. NI weekly earnings are £50 below the UK average (£585).
  • Real weekly earnings increased by 1.2 per cent. This is the fourth increase in real earnings in the last five years and brings real earnings close to 2009 levels. Real UK weekly earnings increased by 0.9 per cent over the year.

Increase in private sector earnings larger than increase in public sector earnings

  • The increase in weekly earnings over the year was driven by increases in the private sector (3.4 per cent). Increases in pay were experienced across the spectrum for private sector workers, with those at the lowest 10 per cent of the earnings distribution experiencing an increase of 4.8 per cent and those at the top 10% experiencing a 4.4 per cent increase. The increase in hourly rates of pay at the 10th percentile of the private sector pay distribution is in line with the increase in the National Living Wage from £7.83 in 2018 to £8.21 in 2019. This is a clear indication of its impact on low pay.
  • Weekly earnings in the public sector increased at a much lower rate (0.7 per cent), however public sector earnings remain above earnings in the private sector (31 per cent higher, £625 compared to £479).  Whilst public sector earnings in NI were similar to those in the UK, earnings in the private sector in NI remained below those in the UK and are now equivalent to 84 per cent of the UK private sector median.
  • Some of the difference between earnings in the public and private sector is due to differences in the composition of the workforces. Many of the lowest paid occupations exist primarily in the private sector, while there is a larger proportion of professional occupations in the public sector.

NI had highest percentage of Low Paid jobs of all the UK regions

  • Approximately a fifth of all jobs in NI were ‘low-paid’ (based on OECD measure of low pay). This is the lowest proportion in NI in 20 years but is the highest proportion of the 12 UK regions.
  • Prior to the introduction of the National Living Wage in 2016, earnings at the bottom 10 per cent of jobs in NI were higher than the National Minimum Wage. Since 2016 the level of earnings at the bottom 10th percentile of earnings has been at the National Living Wage value.

Tenth year when the gender pay gap in NI has been zero or in favour of full-time females

  • This is the tenth year when the gender pay gap in NI has been zero or in favour of full-time females. Median hourly earnings (excluding overtime) for full-time females (£13.13) was 2.9 per cent greater than those for full-time males (£12.76).
  • NI remains the only region in the UK where full-time females earn more per hour on average than full-time males. In the UK as a whole full-time females earned 8.9 per cent less than full-time males per hour.
  • The gender pay gap in NI is driven by a larger proportion of full-time females working in higher paid occupations than males, and a larger proportion of full-time females than males working in the public sector. When all employees (full-time and part-time employees) are considered, the gender pay gap is reversed, and males earn more on average than females. This is because a greater proportion of females than males are in part-time work, where average pay is lower. This concept is known as the ‘part-time effect’ and is explained visually in the Gender Pay Gap GIF  .

Annual earnings increase over the year

  • Median annual earnings increased by 1.2 per cent for all full-time employees in NI over the year to £27,434, but remained lower than the UK median of £30,353. The highest 10 per cent of earners earned approximately £50,000 and above.

Jobs in Belfast have highest average earnings

  • Median weekly earnings for full-time employees by place of work showed increases across 10 of the 11 Local Government Districts (LGDs) over the year. The only LGD experiencing a decrease in median weekly earnings was Ards and North Down LGD. The highest median weekly earnings were in Belfast LGD at £575 and lowest in Ards and North Down LGD at £447.
  • When earnings by place of residence were considered the picture changes. Median weekly pay for full-time employees was highest for residents in Lisburn and Castlereagh at £591 and lowest in Causeway Coast and Glens at £483. The difference reflects local commuting patterns.
  • Interactive maps showing variation in workplace earnings across Northern Ireland is available on the NINIS website  .

Total hours worked in NI remain higher than UK average

  • The total weekly hours worked by full-time employees in NI remained unchanged over the year at 38.2 hours, and are now 0.7 hours higher than the UK.

Notes to editors: 

1. ASHE is a UK wide survey of employers that provides information on hourly, weekly and annual earnings by gender, work pattern, industry and occupation. The sample comprises approximately 1 per cent of all jobs in NI covered by Pay As You Earn (PAYE) schemes, and results relate to the pay-period including 10th April 2019. ASHE relates to employees only, and does not cover self-employed jobs.

2. The headline measure of earnings from ASHE is median gross weekly earnings for full-time employees and is referred to as ‘weekly earnings’ for ease of reporting. A range of hourly, weekly and annual measures relating to full and part-time employees are available alongside the main bulletin available at the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings .

3. ASHE data are used by those who have an interest in NI economic and labour market policy. The figures are widely used to chart changes in NI earnings levels over time and relative to the rest of the UK. Government Departments require a variety of indicators, which measure the state of the labour market, including earnings across industries and occupations as well as for the public and private sector.

4. The mean and the median measure different things and either can be appropriate depending on what the user is trying to measure. The mean measures the average amount earned by individuals, but in a skewed distribution such as earnings this measure is susceptible to small numbers of very high earners. The median measures the amount earned by the average individual, i.e. the level of earnings at which half the population are above and half the population are below. Please note that changes in median values for sub-sectors of the population are not necessarily additive at the population level.

5. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) definitions of low pay and high pay are used. Low pay is defined as the value that is two-thirds of the UK median hourly earnings (e.g. £13.27 x 2/3 = £8.85 in 2019). High pay is defined as the value that is 1.5 times the UK median hourly earnings (e.g. £13.27 x 1.5 = £19.91 in 2019).

6. For media enquiries, please contact DfE Press Office on 028 9052 9604. Outside office hours, please contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110.

7. Feedback is welcomed and should be addressed to: Responsible statistician: Ashleigh Warwick, Economic & Labour Market Statistics (ELMS), or Tel: 028 9025 5174.

8. Follow NISRA on Twitter  .

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