Thursday, April 20, 2023

Yes, public sector workers really do "have it easy"

As Canadian public service workers in the PSAC union vote to strike, it is being widely reported that public support and sentiment - "hearts and minds", as the phrase goes - is at best weak, and at worst positively hostile. This seems much more the case than during other strikes, where the rank and file are, generally speaking, quite supportive.

So, why would this be? Well, mainly because of the general perception that government workers "have it easy" compared to private sector workers. But how justified is that perception?

Luckily, we have a pretty recent study that looks at precisely that assertion. And yes, it does in fact conclude that public sector workers in Ontario, whether at the federal, provincial or municipal level, enjoy wages that are an average of 34% higher than in the private sector. Even factoring in gender, age, education level, type of employment, establishment size, industry and occupation, public sector workers still out-earn private sector workers in very similar jobs by about 11%.

In addition, public sector workers enjoy much better benefits from their jobs. For example, 84% of government workers are covered by a registered pension plan, compared to just 25% in the private sector, and of those, 94% have defined benefit plans compared to just 37% in private employment. Government workers retire an average of 2½ years earlier than their private sector equivalents. Government sector workers take an an average of 14 sick days, compared to less than 9 in the private sector. Also, job security is much stronger, with only 1.3% of government workers experiencing job loss in 2021, compared to 5.5% of private sector workers.

There's also good evidence that public sector workers had an easier time of things during the pandemic than private sector workers.

So, all things considered you can really understand why there is a public perception that public sector workers "have it easy". It's because they do.

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