The Exchequer’s annual wages and pensions bill increased sharply from €10.2 billion in 2001 to €16.2bn last year, with what has been termed "benchmarking" accounting for up to €1.32bn of the rise.

The number of public servants grew by 38,760, or 18%, since 2001 to 257,013 last January.

The education sector saw the biggest increase with pay costs rising by 65%. Health sector pay surged by 63% in the period, civil service salaries rose 48% and in the security sector they rose by 34.8%.