Polly fires off a broadside at those who are so disgusting as to actually point out that the average public sector worker earns more per hour than the average private sector worker (or even per week).
Except it\’s not true. The facts are accurate, but the context makes it a statistical cheat. Their figures are arrived at by adding up all public sector pay, and all private sector pay, regardless of jobs, and dividing them by the number of employees in each sector. The net result is a meaningless porridge. The private sector now has most of the unskilled work: most cleaners, carers, caterers, security guards, dinner ladies, porters and labourers. They once worked in the public sector, but are now outsourced – and so there are now five times more "elementary" jobs in the private sector. Those remaining as public employees are heavily weighted towards the most highly skilled and super-qualified.
The Office for National Statistics reveals in its labour force survey that 8.6% of private employees are graded as professionals, whereas these form 24.5% of public employees. So if you stupidly average up all jobs, regardless of qualification, of course the public-sector figure is higher. An example: one in five in the public sector is a teacher.
And there\’s a certain amount of truth in her allegation. We\’re not, as she says, taking account of the different composition of the workforce, we\’re not looking at the way in which there is occupational segregation. There are indede private sector teachers but the vast majority of this well paid middle class occupation (I would say profession except they strike) are in the public sector.
However, there\’s a much larger point to be made here about the ONS\’ figures.
They are exactly the same ones which are used to calculate the gender pay gap which Polly is so keen to highlight. And, of course the gender pay gap figures suffer from exactly the same problem, in that all are lumped together and no adjustment is made for either skill level of occupational segregation.
Which leads us to an interesting conclusion. If this comparison is, as Polly says, not true, then neither are the ones about the gender pay gap. Or, if the gender pay gap ones are, then these are too.
I certainly can\’t see that there\’s any other possibility other than those two.