Public sector staff earn more per hour than private sector staff

Public sector employees earn more per hour than those in the private sector, according to figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

The difference in average hourly earnings between employees in the public and private sector stood at 8.2% in 2011.

The figure is based on findings from the Annual survey of hours and earnings and the Labour force survey, conducted by the ONS. The analysis does not cover other forms of remuneration, such as pension contributions, company cars and health insurance.

Since 2002, the size of the pay gap between the public and private sector has fluctuated, rising between 2002 and 2005, and then falling by 2007. In 2007, it was estimated at 5.3%.

The ONS figures make allowances for the differences in the types of jobs and the characteristics of employees in the two sectors, including:

  • The public sector is made up of a higher proportion of higher-skilled jobs, widening over the last decade as lower-skilled jobs have been outsourced from the public to the private sector. 

  • The public sector consists of a higher proportion of older employees and earnings tend to increase with age and experience. 

  • The public sector workforce contains more people with a degree or an equivalent qualification; 40% in 2011, compared with 25% in the private sector. 

  • The gap between the lowest and highest earners is higher in the private sector with the top 5% of earners paid around 5.7 times more than the bottom 5%. The gap is 4.5 times in the public sector.

Neil Carberry, director for employment at the Confederation of Business Industry (CBI), said: “These average pay figures do not make direct comparisons between specific job salaries in each sector.

“Nevertheless, it is clear that public sector pay is still considerably higher than pay in the private sector.We need to ensure that public sector salaries reflect local labour market conditions, by putting pay decisions into the hands of individual employers at the local level.”

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