Public and private sector wages – UNISON response

Direct comparisons of average rates of private and public sector pay are meaningless, and should not be used as a stick to beat public sector workers with, or to divide workers in the public and private sectors.

Average comparisons are meaningless because a higher proportion of public sector jobs are skilled – in 2010, 38% of public sector workers had a degree or equivalent, compared with 23% in the private sector.

Outsourcing of the lowest paid public service jobs into the private sector, as well as the fact that there are also millions more workers in the private sector, employed across a much wider spread of wages – skews the figures even more.

More tellingly, ONS research today (5/7/11) revealed that a comparison of employees with a degree or equivalent in both sectors – a fairer and more direct assessment – shows that those in the public sector earned 5.7% less than those with the same level of qualification working in the private sector.

Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary, said:

“Comparing average pay in the private and public sector is meaningless – and should not be used as a stick to beat public sector workers with. Scratch the surface and you’ll find that there are far more professionals in the public sector, and they are paid less than people educated to an equivalent level in the private sector.

“Many of the lowest paid jobs, like cleaning and catering, have been contracted out to the private sector – artificially lifting the public sector average. The figures are skewed even more because there are millions more workers in the private sector, spread across a much wider range of wages.

“The overwhelming majority of public sector workers are not highly paid. Two thirds of local government workers earn less than £21,000, and both them, and health workers are being hit with a pay freeze while inflation rockets.”

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