Oxfam Ireland Homepage
  • 4 min read
  • Published: 28th April 2023
  • Press Release by Christine Bale

Irish workers took a 3.9% pay cut last year as wages lagged behind inflation

  • Worldwide workers took a 3 percent pay cut and on average worked six days "for free” in 2022 because their wages lagged behind inflation.
  • One billion workers in 50 countries took an average pay cut of $685 last year, a collective loss of $746 billion in real wages.
  • The only rise for workers was in unpaid work with women and girls putting in 4.6 trillion hours of unpaid care work every year.
  • Oxfam is calling for a national conversation on a wealth tax and an increase in taxes on the richest 1 percent.

The top-paid CEOs across four countries (the UK, US, India and South Africa) enjoyed a 9 percent pay hike in 2022, while globally workers’ wages fell 3.19 percent during the same period, reveals new analysis from Oxfam on International Workers’ Day (1 May).

Irish workers fared worse than this global average last year, taking a 3.9% pay cut, a loss of €2,107 in real wages compared to wages that kept up with inflation. This translates to working 8.3 days for free. The total loss for workers in Ireland was over €5 billion.

Meanwhile in Ireland, The Irish Times reported a 27% increase for 18 bosses of the largest Irish publicly quoted companies in 2021 giving an average pay packet of €3.46 million. They use figures from the Iseq 20 index in Dublin and FTSE 350 in London. This contrasts with CEO increases of 15% for the US and 4.4% in the UK.

“We recognise that figures from any one point in time can be exceptional in some regard but what we are highlighting is a very clear and alarming trend towards widening pay scales and resulting inequality across the globe,” said Jim Clarken, Oxfam Ireland CEO.

“This International Workers Day, most people across the world find themselves working longer for less and struggling to keep up with the cost of living. Perhaps most alarmingly, we've seen progress in reducing extreme poverty grind to a halt with extreme wealth and extreme poverty having increased simultaneously for the first time in 25 years. Poverty is once again on the increase.”

Globally, shareholder dividends hit a record $1.56 trillion in 2022, a 10 percent real-term growth compared to 2021. US corporations paid out $574 billon to their shareholders, more than double US workers’ total real wage pay cut. Brazilian shareholders received $34 billion, just shy of what the country’s workers lost in real wages.

Exorbitant shareholder payouts benefit the richest in society, exacerbating already high levels of inequality. Meanwhile, taxes on income from dividends and shares, which help to fund public services like healthcare and education, have continued to fall, down from 61 percent in 1980 to just 42 percent today.

“We urgently need greater taxation of the ultra-rich as a measure to fight inflation and inequality,” continued Clarken. “We are calling for a national conversation in Ireland about taxing extreme wealth more effectively in order to redress the balance between sky-high executive pay and ordinary workers struggling to make ends meet. This week we heard that we pay double the European average for electricity in this country. Meaningful windfall taxes on excessive corporate profits should be introduced without delay to stop out of control inflation and profiteering.”



Clare Cronin, +353871952551

External Communications Manager

Oxfam Ireland

Notes for editors

Irish Information in full:

Workers in Ireland took a 3.9% real term pay cut in 2022, losing on average €2,107 and working 8.3 days effectively unpaid because wages did not keep up with inflation. The total losses for workers in Ireland was over €5 billion.

These figures discuss if wages had risen in line with inflation. So, while wages may have risen in Ireland across some sectors in 2022, the average rise has not been as high as the rate of inflation. Therefore, the value of the discrepancy between average pay rise and the rate of inflation in the study is 3.9%. For an average salary in Ireland based on Eurostat’s figures, this corresponds to a loss of €2,107 and what would have taken the average wage Irish worker 8.3 days to earn (just over eight 8-hour days comes to €2,107 in wages).

Source: Oxfam calculations based on Eurostat, World Bank and OECD data (see methodology note for more information about calculations and the full dataset). The Irish figures for workers’ wages are adjusted for inflation and are based on Eurostat, World Bank and OECD data.

Download Oxfam’s methodology note and dataset.

May Day, celebrated by workers across the globe as International Workers’ Day, falls on May 1.

Download Oxfam’s report “Survival of the Richest” for more information about taxing the super-rich to fight inequality.

The Janus Henderson Global Dividend Index publishes data on annual dividends by country.

Oxfam’s research shows that taxes on incomes from dividends and shares have fallen from 61 percent in 1980 to 42 percent.