I propose to take Questions Nos. 8, 13, 15, 24, 26, 28 and 29 together.
I have ongoing discussions with the Chief of Staff regarding the full range of defence issues. The current turnover level in the Defence Forces is 8.1%, which is above the long-term average of 6.3%. This turnover level is posing difficulties for the Defence Forces. Other military organisations internationally are also experiencing similar, and in some cases higher, overarching turnover levels, particularly among specialists. As the rate of turnover within a military organisation can differ across functional areas, the impact of turnover can vary accordingly. This leads to particular challenges in certain areas. I have previously acknowledged that the Defence Forces are experiencing certain difficulties in recruitment and retention and highlighted these issues to the Public Service Pay Commission.
The economic recovery has provided the opportunity to restore pay to all public servants, including members of the Defence Forces. This is being done in an affordable and sustainable manner in accordance with national public service pay agreements. Members of the Permanent Defence Force have received the pay increases due from recent national public service pay agreements. The focus of these increases is weighted in favour of those on lower pay. Further increases in pay are scheduled in 2019 and 2020. By the end of the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020, the pay scales of all public servants, including members of the Defence Forces, earning under €70,000 per annum will be restored to pre-financial emergency measures in the public interest, FEMPI, levels. The restoration of the 5% reduction to allowances cut under FEMPI is also scheduled as part of that agreement.
The structure of the Permanent Defence Force differs significantly from that of other organisations. The Defence Forces have a hierarchal structure with almost 50% of personnel at the entry level rank of private. In addition, there are high numbers in training. This makes average pay an inappropriate indicator of comparative pay rates. Although direct comparison can prove difficult due to the differing roles and duties undertaken, the pay package available to members of the Defence Forces remains competitive when compared with other public service jobs with similar educational and skills requirements. Pay rates for newly qualified members of the Defence Forces are competitive when compared with other areas in the public service and the private sector. A newly qualified three-star private can expect to earn €27,759 gross per annum, including military service allowance but excluding duty allowances. This starting pay is subject to incremental progression up a salary scale and increases to €38,388 per annum at this rank. A newly qualified school leaver entry officer can expect to earn €35,614 gross per annum, inclusive of military service allowance, after initial training, and a graduate entry officer can expect to earn €40,566 gross per annum, inclusive of military service allowance, after initial training. These are entry level salary scales. With promotion, individuals receive higher pay. For example, a corporal starts at €37,632 per annum and rises to €39,338 per annum, a sergeant starts at €40,277 per annum and rises to €42,694 per annum, a sergeant major starts at €51,188 per annum and increases to €54,611 per annum. For officers the annual salary scale for a line captain ranges from €49,239 to €61,021, a commandant ranges from €61,348 to €74,328, and a colonel from €83,389 to €99,846. These salary scales are inclusive of military service allowance but exclude duty allowances which are paid for a range of duties performed.
These earnings relate to Army line ranks. In many cases Air Corps and Naval Service personnel receive additional remuneration per equivalent rank arising from additional allowances for duties performed. Where members of the Defence Forces acquire technical qualifications and-or fill associated appointments, there is also associated technical pay. Defence Forces personnel also receive tax-free payments for certain overseas deployments and duties.
There are a range of other factors which influence a person's decision to remain in the Defence Forces. These include career progression opportunities, personal development, work–life balance, job stimulation and work environment. I will continue to work closely with the Secretary General and the Chief of Staff in furthering management responses to address current challenges. There are significant opportunities for career progression and development within the Defence Forces with more than 800 promotions in the Permanent Defence Force in 2018. Each promotion in effect results in a pay rise.
In recognition of the wealth of talent in the enlisted personnel of the Defence Forces, a potential officers course was established last year. This course offered enlisted personnel a clear route to becoming commissioned officers in our Defence Force. Some 24 enlisted personnel completed this course and were commissioned as officers in March of this year. This was the first time in ten years that the course was offered to enlisted personnel.
I welcome this and all other opportunities for personnel to develop their careers in the Defence Forces. I have ensured that further potential officer courses will be undertaken in 2021 and 2024.
The Government is committed to introducing the working time directive in the Defence Forces. Discussions are taking place with the PDF representative associations on this matter. A range of human resource, HR, initiatives aimed at improving work-life balance and job satisfaction are also being progressed by the Defence Forces. The Public Service Pay Commission has concluded an examination of recruitment and retention challenges in the Defence sector. The Minister for Finance and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Donohoe, has indicated that he will be bringing this report to Government shortly.