Irish workers pay the third lowest tax and social insurance contributions in the industrial world. They have also benefited from by far the largest reductions in tax and social insurance since 1996.

These findings are contained in a new report on taxation and wages published today by the OECD in Paris.

The report also finds that when child benefit payments are taken into account, the Irish tax and welfare system is the most generous in the world for single income families on average industrial wages.

Only the Mexicans and Koreans pay lower tax and PRSI rates than the Irish. Workers on average industrial wages in Ireland typically pay 10.6% of their salary in income tax - the 11th lowest out of 30 countries.

They also pay an average of 5% in PRSI contributions - the fifth lowest social insurance rate in the OECD. Taken together, this means the Government takes 15.7% from the pay packets of average industrial workers, the third lowest in the industrialised world. The rates are more than 40% in Denmark, Germany and Belgium.

The pace at which Irish labour taxes came down also stands out. In 1996, the typical tax and PRSI bill here was as high as 28.5%. Since then it has almost halved, down 12.8 percentage points. These rates fell in 23 out of the 30 OECD countries, but nowhere came anywhere near the Irish experience.

Today's report also finds that child benefit payments for two children in Ireland are greater than the amount paid in income tax and PRSI by a single income family on average wages. The only other country in the OECD where this occurs is Luxembourg.

RTE's economics editor says this might imply that Ireland's tax and welfare system is the best in the world for single income families on average industrial wages. But this takes no account of VAT or excise duties, the availability of public housing supports, and the difficulties for families with children of living on a single average industrial wage in Ireland.