The latest monthly statistics released by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) show that while overall pay for workers in the region has risen, it has fallen behind the rising cost of living and increases elsewhere in the UK.
Earnings data from HMRC PAYE revealed that median gross pay for Northern Ireland workers in July was £2,103, compared to £2,274 in the wider UK – an 8.1% differential – and while this represented a 7.5% increase on the year, it falls short of both the increase in UK median pay (7.8%) and the Retail Price Index (RPI) of 10.7%.
Susan Fitzgerald, regional secretary for the Unite union, said the statistics confirm the “brutal impact” inflation is having on workers across Northern Ireland. “The huge growth of in-work poverty means more and more workers are being forced to make impossible choices and to take on more than one job, simply to survive,” she added.
Concerns have also been raised over economic inactivity within the Northern Ireland workforce, with flexible working options put forward as a potential solution.
Mark McAllister, director of employment relations services at the Labour Relations Agency (LRA), said: “Through our working relationships with bodies such as Employers for Childcare and Melted Parents, the LRA is highlighting the importance of flexible working as a means of helping those who are currently economically inactive back into the workplace.”
McAllister acknowledged that many employers are now bringing in “more generous and widespread” flexible working initiatives as a method of both recruiting and retaining staff.
However, he added: “These flexibilities need to go beyond simply returning on a part-time basis. Employers need to consider the cost of childcare and how hybrid working and other creative and flexible approaches can transform the ‘how’ and ‘where’ of work.”