Some data on public sector pensions in the Republic of Ireland

Posted on June 08, 2014 by Tom Healy

Tom Healy, Director NERI
Tom Healy, Director NERI

The Government in the Republic of Ireland spends just over €3 billion a year on pensions to retired public servants (or their spouses). This represents approximately 2% of GDP, 6% of total ‘voted’ public expenditure or 16% of the total public service payroll. These payments are made to persons who had worked as civil servants, teachers, nurses, guards, local authority staff, health service staff etc. The topic of pensions, in general, and public service pensions in particular, attracts some attention – sometimes adverse.  It would be useful, as a starting point, to know what profile of pension payments there is at the current time.

While there is no comprehensive set of data on how much retired persons who had worked at some stage in the public service receive from various sources of income (state pension, other occupational pensions, income from capital etc.), estimates are available for the distribution of payments in a given year. Data specially provided recently by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform indicate a wide distribution of pension payments with an average (as measured by the median) of just under €19,500 per annum in 2012. In other words, one half of all retired persons from the public service received a public service pension payment below €19,500 a year before deductions.

The data show that 50% of all retired public service pensioners received between €10,000 and €30,000 a year [Graph 1]. Out of 140,000 retired public servants (including spouses of deceased public servants) an estimated 500 were paid in excess of €100,000 a year. Some 90% of all retired public servants (including spouses) received less than €40,000 a year. Approximately 25% of the total received more than €32,500 a year (the cut-off point for cuts in pensions under the Haddington Road Agreement in 2013). This contrasts with a cut-off point for pay cuts of €65,000 for public servants in service over which an estimated 16% of public servants were implicated.

Graph 1


Two words of caution:

  • These figures are before deduction for tax, USC, public service deduction levy etc.
  • These figures relate, only to public service pension payments and do not include other possible sources of income received by public service retirees/spouses.

A more refined distribution of public service pensioners in steps of one thousand Euro per annum is shown in Graph 2.

Graph 2


Technical notes:

  • Estimates in Graphs 1 and 2 are based on a Department of Public Expenditure and Reform database of 140,000 pensioners  (whether they had been full-time or part-time and regardless of length of service ) covering around 98% of all public service pensioners and a total annual pension bill of €3 billion.
  • Payments  include children and spouses or retired public servants.
  • The data includes all areas of the public service (and not just the areas covered by the Exchequer Pensions Bill)
  • The amounts are gross and before deduction of the public service reduction levy.
  • Retirement lump sums are not included




Posted in: Government SpendingWages

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