Part-time workers may have to earn a minimum of €70 per week to be entitled to the full contributory state pension instead of the current €38 per week, under new budget proposals.

The proposal was made in a paper prepared by officials from the Department of Social Protection, for consideration in the forthcoming budget.

At the moment, part-time workers earning €38 per week can qualify for a contributory state pension, which is €233 (maximum) per week.

Almost one in every four workers is employed on a part-time basis. 

The Department of Social Protection paper suggested that benefit "may be disproportionate to their income when in employment".

"Over their working life employees on very low earnings levels can establish entitlement to the maximum state pension (contribution)."

The current earnings threshold of €38 was set in 1994.

The paper said "consideration needs to be given to increasing the earnings threshold" to €70 per week or €3,900 per year.

The annual threshold currently applying to the self-employed is €5,000.

As well as saving the State money, department officials said increasing the threshold would save employers money "who would no longer pay PRSI at 8.5% for those earning between €38 and €70".

However, trade unionswould likely resist the change with one official today disregarding it as a "daft idea".