Analysis of Low Pay Sectors

Readers may have seen that the Low Pay Commission recently published their report Recommendations on the National Minimum Wage for 2018.

Perhaps of most interest to readers of this blog are the detailed appendices, which include a study by Revenue and Irish Government Economic & Evaluation Service (IGEES) economists Seán Kennedy, Brian Stanley and Gerry McGuinness of the low pay sectors based on tax return microdata. This paper is also separately available here.

The paper examines the incomes and mobility of taxpayers and the profitability of employers in Ireland using Revenue’s tax record data. The distributional and mobility analysis of low income taxpayers is based on a longitudinal dataset, which follows approximately 100,000 taxpayers for 4 years from 2011 to 2014. These taxpayers are stratified random sample drawn from the entire population of 2.1 million tax units on Revenue records. While analysis of incomes in Ireland and internationally is often based on a snapshot at a moment in time, the longitudinal nature of this dataset allows measurement of income mobility over time.

Some of the key findings are as follows:

  • One in three taxpayers are low paid, defined as those earning below two-thirds of median income.
  • The highest proportions of low paid taxpayers are in the wholesale & retail trade (23 per cent) and accommodation & food (19 per cent) sectors.
  • Five low pay sectors are identified, having median incomes that are substantially below the median income for all sectors. They include accommodation & food service activities, wholesale & retail trade and administrative & support service activities.  Slightly over one third of employments are in low pay sectors.
  •  Low pay sectors have the highest proportions of the youngest taxpayers. Two in five taxpayers are aged 24 and under in the accommodation & food sector.
  • In the low pay sectors, males earn slightly more than females while in the other sectors females earn more. The sectors with the highest ratio of males to females are construction, transport and agriculture (7.5, 2.9 and 2.8 times respectively).
  • In Dublin, median incomes in low pay sectors incomes are 7 per cent higher than those outside Dublin (compared to 9 per cent higher in the other sectors).

Based on an analysis of income mobility, lower paid taxpayers working in low paid sectors have a higher chance of increasing their incomes in future years relative to others within the same sector. For example, in the accommodation & food sector almost half moved upwards from the bottom quintile between 2013 and 2014.

Revenue’s Annual Report 2016

Revenue today published our Annual Report for 2016. The report itself contains a lot of interesting material on our activities and outputs last year. In addition, we have published research reports on Corporation Tax returns for 2015 and payments in 2016, the oil market in Ireland, our latest illicit tobacco survey results and a summary of lessons from the application of behavioural economics in Revenue. We have also updated our regular statistics on Local Property Tax.

The New Yorker on how Apple created Ireland’s real, and less real, economies

For readers who want a good summary of what’s going on with Apple, the EU Commission, etc., Adam Davidson of the New Yorker has a nice piece putting the decision in its historical and political context. From the piece:

Is the Ireland of the real Apple—the physical place with people doing things that produce profit—going to dominate, or will it be the Ireland of tax-free fictions and arbitraging loopholes in a complicated global economy?

Ireland’s economic transformation in the course of the past thirty-five years was remarkable in many ways. Up until the early nineteen-eighties, Ireland’s income per person was one of the lowest in Europe, right alongside Greece’s. Unemployment was well above sixteen per cent for much of the nineteen-eighties. The country’s income began to hurtle upward after 1995. Dell, Intel, and Microsoft joined Apple in Ireland. Large pharmaceutical firms also came, and now more than half of Irish exports are pharmaceuticals. At first, these big firms were excited to find people with advanced degrees willing to work at a fraction of what American, French, or German workers are paid. By the early two-thousands, Ireland’s per-capita gross domestic product was higher than that of the U.S. or the U.K., and fully a hundred and thirty per cent of the European average. For the first time in Ireland’s history, the country experienced net immigration. Alongside the new economy of high-tech and pharmaceutical companies, Ireland continued to develop its agricultural businesses, especially food manufacturing. Ireland is now a major exporter of snack foods and dairy products. For the first few decades, this growth seemed to have been based on something beautiful and right: the Irish had always been highly educated, clever, and hardworking, and they were now earning what they deserved.

How Does Ireland’s Income Tax Compare?

A great deal of political debate in Ireland rests on the assumption that Ireland’s rates of taxation are prohibitive. This is generally taken to mean that Irish taxes on income, specifically, are particularly onerous. This perception is rarely, however, assessed with reference to available statistics.

A new NERI Research inBrief by Paul Goldrick-Kelly uses the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) data concerning estimates of the effective direct taxes paid by households of varying income and marital status in 2014 to assess Ireland’s rates of taxation on income relative to those observed in other comparable nations.

 

The NERI Research inBrief series are short four page research notes on various topics of socio-economic interest. Other contributions in the series are available here.

The NERI is on twitter: @NERI_research

Thinking a little about indexation

The Minister for Social Protection wants to index many social protection payments to a cost of living index as an anti-poverty measure. This makes sense on the face of it, as long as that cost of living index is going up, and as long as the level of benefits fall when the cost of living falls. It’s also worth thinking about the virtues of indexation, as this was one of the main criticisms IFAC had of the fiscal space calculations during the last election.

Let’s say you index benefits to the consumer price measure of inflation.

Here’s what happened to that reading over the longer run.

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 11.29.28Just messing about with the idea a little more, imagine we ‘begin’ the Irish economy in year 1 with a CPI reading of 100, and grant benefits of €100. Then we can add in (say) the last 20 years of real CPI data from 1995 to 2015 to get a sense of what would have happened to benefits in a year-on-year basis as a result.

The line is the increase in benefits as a result of the indexation, and the bars are the changes in euros to the benefits as a result of the cost of living increase or decrease, measured on the right hand axis. The excel sheet I used to knock this up is here.

Picture1

Hopefully you can see two things. First, the measure is highly pro cyclical. Precisely when we want benefits to decrease a bit, because the economy is growing strongly, they go up, and when we want benefits to increase a bit to cover the cost of living during a crash, they go down. Second, in recent years inflation has either stagnated, or fallen, so you wouldn’t see a huge increase or decrease in benefits either way. Now you could smooth out some of these effects out with a moving average of, say, 3 years, but this little exercise shows, I think, that it’s worth looking carefully at indexation proposals.

(Updated with thanks to commenter Tony_Eire.)

“No recovery here”

One of the really interesting outcomes of the last election was the rejection by voters of the Fine Gael strap line: let’s keep the recovery going. As measured by GDP growth, Ireland was rebounding from its period of austerity very strongly, with the fastest GDP growth in Europe.

A household sector which had just received an income tax cut, child benefit increases, pension increases, social welfare increases, public sector pay increases (or restorations, whatever), threw the main party’s ‘recovery’ line back in its face at the doorsteps–what recovery, they asked. No recovery here.

This was taken to mean that there was no recovery outside of Dublin. Dan O’Brien’s series of columns have dispelled that myth. There is a recovery in rural Ireland, it’s just not happening as quickly as in the capital, where employment levels are now 96% of their 2008 peak. In the Mid-West employment levels are at 88% of their peak.

Source: CSO.ie
Source: CSO.ie

Then a long and rambling discussion on the corporate tax element of Ireland’s apparent rebound took place, largely on twitter. The volatility of the corporate tax take in Ireland is exceptional.

Yet another strand of the argument is given by thinking about Ireland in relation to Europe. Philip Connolly of the times in Ireland showed me these data of GDP per capita in purchasing power parity adjusted euros compare it with an actual income for consumption measure. The graph below is from Eurostat and shows the difference in the two measures  with Ireland and Luxemburg showing a very large difference between these two measures of household welfare. Using the AIC measure, Irish households are closer to Italian than Danish levels of welfare.

Source: Eurostat
Source: Eurostat

This may give a clue as to why we see such large differences between official rhetoric and the popular reaction to that rhetoric.