Skip to content

Public sector pay

Nice little report out and it\’s from the ONS so there can\’t be argument with the actual figures:

In its September Economic and Labour Market Review, published yesterday, the national statistician reported that the average weekly salary for public sector workers in April last year was £539, compared with £465 in the private sector.

The difference was more stark when pensions were included because fewer than half of the private sector workforce were enrolled in a retirement scheme, compared with nearly all in the public sector – many of which are taxpayer-subsidised final salary schemes paying two thirds of working income for life. Including employer pension contributions, the total average remuneration package for the public sector was worth £615 a week and £479 for a private sector worker.

Now we all also know what is the response to this. Polly has trialled it often enough:

Adam Lent, the head of economics for the TUC, said: \”You can\’t make direct comparisons. The public sector has many more professional and highly skilled workers within it than the private sector. Averages simply do not tell us anything useful.\”

To which there are two answers.

The first is that there are more \”professional\” workers in the public sector because public sector workers have been pushing for decades to have what the public sector does declared to be a profession. This is why teachers need a post graduate qualification in order to show 5 year olds how to make plasticine snakes rather than the 6 week hands on teacher training practice that is actually useful. Why we now have graduate only nursing, rather than that more practical training of yesteryear.

A deliberate (and largely successful) attempt to declare what public sector workers do professional so that public sector workers thus become professionals.

The second answer is that you can\’t have it both ways Bubba. And this is something which I\’ve said a number of times to Adam Lent and only ever got \”well, yes, but let\’s not go there\” type responses.

When we go look at the gender pay gap, quite apart from all of the lies we\’re told about part and full time hours comparisons, the TUC, the Fawcett Society and so on, all talk about averages. Average male hourly wages, average female hourly wages. They make no attempt to adjust for differences in training, hours worked, qualifications or years in the labour force.

Indeed, it falls to us, those who critique those glib and simplistic numbers, to point out that once you do adjust for all of those things then there isn\’t really any room left for a gender pay gap based upon anything other than those adjustments. And when we do so the TUC, Fawcett et al simply go on repeating that there\’s a pay gap based purely on those averages over the workforce without making adjustments.

Now, I\’m entirely happy for the TUC, Fawcett, Uncle Tom Cobbley and all, to go off and make those needed adjustments. Let us actually see the public/private sector figures properly done: not purely on averages, but adjusted for time in labour force, qualifications, hours worked and so on. Or they can accept those corrections for the gender pay gap, I don\’t mind.

But no, sorry, you don\’t get it both ways. You don\’t get to claim gender discrimination on simple averages and then claim there\’s no public/private discrimination because simple averages don\’t tell the whole story.

4 thoughts on “Public sector pay”

  1. One might add that their is no reason other than historicy why medics or teachers need to be in the public sector. Institute a proper voucher scheme and all those education professionals suddenly become private sector. Institute a Singapore style health scheme and likewise the health professionals become private sector. Once these were in the private sector we would see how useful all that academic training really is.
    Of course one reason why the public sector values qualifications so highly is that they cover the arse of those doing the appointing. If a hire proves useless, then the hirers can show that they chose the best qualified applicant, so their mistake is entirely understandable. If the hire wasn’t the besst qualified then they have to take responsibility for their mistake. Combine this with the universal desire of senior management to control every detail of the organisaation, and the blame culture it is not hard to see why public employeees are more highly certificated than their private counterparts. In my experience it does’t make them more (or less) useful though.

  2. Let’s just take all those Sir Humphrey self-voted pension benefits away. They’re illegal anyway – and at £1.3trillion, a very big cut. The unkindest cut of all, perhaps.
    The Unions will bend the figures and carry on moaning. When they see top sums, they quote averages – and vice versa. Sod ’em – the winter of discontent is overplayed. By next February there’ll be far bigger things to worry about than whether teachers turn up or not.
    Most mandarins I’ve met strike me as not so much certificated as certifiable – but like all very mad people, alarmingly cunning. Bankers are also cunning: but more focused, and alarmingly sane.
    Basel seems to have their number – if this leak is true….

  3. One third of the Civil Service is on £15000 a year with pensions to match. Large swaithes of management scum plus senior management shite all on disgraceful levels of overpayment are what drive up the averages. After any cuts of course, the little people who need the job will be gone and the senior shite will still be there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *