The gender pay gap in the public sector based on average hourly earnings was 12.1% higher for males than females, compared to 21.1% higher in the private sector in 2010.

That is according to the Central Statistics Office National Employment Survey 2009 and 2010 Supplementary Analysis, published today.

Public sector employees had higher educational attainment, longer service, were older, and were more likely to be in professional jobs than their counterparts in the private sector.

The survey shows that 37.8% of public sector employees had a third level degree or higher qualification compared with 22.5% in the private sector.

The pay gap estimates ranged from 6.1% to 18.9% for National Employment Survey (NES) 2010 and all estimates showed a reduction in the pay gap between 2009 and 2010.

But the CSO points out that there is no single best measure to compare public and private sector pay. It says that to present a black and white comparison would be subjective and prone to over simplification.

Analysis based on gender showed that the public sector pay gap ranged from 2.3% to 14.5% for males and for females it ranged from 9.2% to 20.4% in 2010. In 2009 the pay gap ranged from 7.9% to 17.2% for males and from 14.8% to 23.4% for females.

Analysis showed that the public sector pay differential was biggest at the lower end of the earnings distribution and generally decreased as earnings increased.

The NES 2009 was a major workplace survey conducted by the CSO. The survey covered both the public and private sectors, the only excluded sectors being agriculture, forestry and fishing.