ESRI Research Series

Sub-minimum wages in Ireland

This report has been peer reviewed prior to publication. The authors are solely responsible for the content and the views expressed.

November 2, 2023
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• The minimum wage in Ireland in 2023 is €11.30 per hour. However, current
legislation allows employers to pay young workers a sub-minimum wage. Those aged less than 18 years can be paid 70 per cent of the full minimum wage rate, while those aged 18 years and 19 years can be paid 80 and 90 per cent of the full rate, respectively.
• Legislation also exempts certain categories of workers from being paid the minimum wage. This includes apprentices, people employed by a spouse or a close relative, and prisoners involved in non-commercial work. These groups can be paid below the full minimum wage rate.
• The incidence of sub-minimum wage employment in Ireland is low. In 2022, just 1.4 per cent of all employees were sub-minimum wage employees. This is equivalent to approximately 30,000 individuals. In the same year, 5.6 per cent of employees were earning the full-rate minimum wage, equivalent to approximately 120,000 individuals.
• According to employees’ self-reported status in the Irish Labour Force Survey, approximately half of all sub-minimum wage employees report earning a youth rate. Just five per cent report being employed by a relative, while apprentices and ‘other reasons’ both account for 20 per cent of subminimum wage employment.
• The overall incidence of youth-rate sub-minimum employment, therefore, is very low in Ireland. Just 0.7 per cent, or one in 140 employees, are on a sub-minimum youth rate. This is equivalent to approximately 15,000 individuals.
• While all employees aged 15–19 could legally be paid a sub-minimum wage, just under one-quarter are actually on a sub-minimum rate, with approximately three-quarters earning either the full minimum wage or higher pay.
• Not all sub-minimum wage employees aged 15–19 are classified as earning a youth rate. While the majority (83 per cent) classify themselves as earning a youth rate, approximately 11 per cent of sub-minimum wage workers in this age bracket are earning below minimum wage due to being
an apprentice.
• With regard to the composition of sub-minimum youth-rate employees, just over half (55 per cent) are women, while 77 per cent work in either the accommodation, food or retail sectors. Approximately 80 per cent of sub-minimum youth-rate employees classify themselves as students. Subminimum wage apprentices are predominantly young men in the construction sector.