The issue of pay in the public sector in the UK has stimulated much discussion in recent months particularly with regard to the UK government policy of capping pay increases. Public sector pay in Northern Ireland has also been an issue of contention for some years, yet much of that debate has been based on some fundamental misconceptions.Private sector pay growth has outpaced public sector pay growth for all but two of the last 17 years. The public sector pay cap has fallen behind inflation and is forecast to fall further behind in years to come.Falling public sector pay has often been justified by the public/private pay gap. However, the simple ratio of median pay rates used to describe the gap in Northern Ireland is inaccurate and misleading. Using the same metric across the rest of the economy shows the unsuitability of this method.