Employee Earnings in Northern Ireland

Date published: 01 November 2023

Employee Earnings in Northern Ireland, from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings 2023, was published today by the Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency.

Economic Output Statistics
Economic Output Statistics

The report provides provisional estimates for 2023 and final revised estimates for 2022.

Key points

Weekly earnings saw the second largest annual increase on record

  • Median gross weekly earnings for full-time employees in April 2023 increased by 7.4% from £597 in 2022 to £641 in 2023. This year’s annual increase is the second largest on record.
  • UK weekly earnings increased by 6.2% to £682 in April 2023, the largest annual increase on record.
  • NI had the second largest increase in earnings across the 12 UK regions over the year and now ranks fifth lowest of the regions, with weekly earnings around £40 below the UK average in 2023.
  • In real terms (that is, adjusted for inflation) weekly earnings in NI decreased by 0.3% over the year to April 2023, which is the second consecutive real terms decrease, following the largest annual decrease on record to April 2022 (3.7%). Real weekly earnings in the UK saw a larger decrease over the year (1.5%) than NI.

Private sector pay grows faster than public sector pay

  • Increases in weekly earnings were recorded for both the public and the private sectors (0.1% and 9.3% respectively) over the year. The larger growth in the private sector has led to the smallest percentage difference in 20 years between the two sectors in NI (approximately 22%), as well as between NI and UK earnings in the private sector (12%) over the same period.
  • Over the year to 2023, real earnings in the public sector fell by 7.2%, which was in contrast to an increase of 1.4% in the private sector. Over the last two decades, real earnings in the public sector showed no growth, compared to a growth of 13% in real earnings in the private sector since 2003.

Proportion of low-paid jobs in NI is the lowest on record

  • Around 11% of all jobs in NI were ‘low-paid’ (based on OECD measure of low pay) in 2023. This is the lowest proportion in NI in 20 years but is the joint highest proportion of the 12 UK regions.
  • The proportion of jobs paid below the National Living Wage (NLW) and National Minimum Wage (NMW) was 1.3% in 2023. This is similar to last year (1.0%) and pre-COVID levels (1.1% in 2019) and is well below the 2020 and 2021 rates (11% and 5.8%), where 90% of those below these rates were on furlough.

Gender pay gap in favour of males in NI

  • The gender pay gap for all employees (regardless of working pattern) in NI is in favour of males. Median hourly earnings (excluding overtime) for females (£13.75) was 7.8% below those for males (£14.92). This is slightly wider than the 2022 gender pay gap (7.5%) but is lower than rates prior to 2020 and lower than the gap recorded in the UK in the last three years (between 14% and 15%).

Annual earnings in NI are lower than in the UK

  • Median annual earnings for full-time employees in NI were £32,900 in 2023, lower than the UK median of £35,000. The highest 10% of earners earned at least £59,000.


  • Median gross weekly earnings full-time employees in NI increased by 7.4% over the year, the second largest increase on record. NI earnings in 2023 saw the second highest increase of all the UK regions and were 20% higher than their pre-pandemic position in 2019.
  • Real weekly earnings in NI decreased in 2023 (0.3%) for the second consecutive year, following the largest decrease on record (3.7%) in 2022. Real earnings are now 0.6% higher than the pre-COVID position in 2019 and 9.0% higher than they were 20 years ago. Real earnings in the public sector fell by 7.2% over the year, compared with an increase of 1.4% in the private sector. When considering public and private sector earnings over the last two decades, the public sector showed no growth in real earnings, in contrast to a growth of 13% in the private sector.
  • The proportion of low-paid jobs in NI fell for the third consecutive year to a record low (11%). This proportion has generally been falling since the introduction of the National Living Wage in 2016. However, despite these improvements, NI had the joint highest proportion of low-paid jobs of all regions in the UK in 2023.
  • When considering all employees regardless of working pattern, the gender pay gap in NI was 7.8% in favour of males in 2023. This means that, for every £1 earned by men, women earned 92p. By contrast, the gender pay gap was in favour of females when considering full-time (3.5%) and part-time (1.7%) employees.

Notes to editors: 

1. The Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (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% of all jobs in NI covered by Pay As You Earn (PAYE) schemes. The reference date for the most recent survey was the pay-week (or other pay-period if the employee was paid less frequently) which included 19th April 2023.

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 at the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings page on the NISRA website.

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. A visual explanation of this is available on the NISRA website. Please note that changes in median values for sub-sectors of the population are not necessarily additive at the population level.

5. The Organistaion 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. £15.88 x 2/3 = £10.59 in 2023). High pay is defined as the value that is 1.5 times the UK median hourly earnings (e.g. £15.88 x 1.5 = £23.82 in 2023)

6. To keep up to date with news from the Department you can follow us on the following social media channels:

7. For media enquiries contact the Department for the Economy Press Office at pressoffice@economy-ni.gov.uk .

8. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

9. Feedback is welcomed and should be addressed to Responsible statistician, Ashleigh Warwick, Economic & Labour Market Statistics (ELMS), ashleigh.warwick@nisra.gov.uk or Tel: 028 902 55174.

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