back to article Public sector earning more than private, but less than last month

Public sector workers, even excluding financial services staff, earn more than those in the private sector. Figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that average total pay including bonuses in the private sector was £451 a week in July 2010 while in the public sector it was £464. Excluding financial services …


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  1. Anonymous Coward


    That would be because they privatised all the menial low paying jobs like hospital cleaners, thereby skewing the public sector average pay upwards.

    Still, can't miss an opportunity to stick the boot into the public sector, can you?

    1. Dave 3

      Not so

      That line's been tried before.

      "That isn't the case. To the contrary, the public and private sectors have a remarkably similar distribution of earnings apart from the private sector catching up among the very highest ten per cent of earners. In every decile public sector staff earn more except at the very highest where compensation is roughly the same."

      1. SlabMan


        You're quoting the Taxpayers' Alliance as a source of objective data?

        LOL, as they say.

      2. Peter Holgate



        As an public sector employee, I know these statistics are WRONG.

    2. Tom7

      Well, we wouldn't like facts to get in the way but...

      @AC: "That would be because they privatised all the menial low paying jobs like hospital cleaners"

      Hospital cleaning has been outsourced since the 1980s, with the recent trend to bring it back into the NHS. Try again.

    3. Desk Jockey

      Meaningless statistics

      Damn right, these statistics tell us nothing useful and just imply public sector people are over-paid which is tosh. Pay peanuts, get monkeys etc etc.

      A better comparison would be comparing equivalent roles or budget responsibilities. For example, a manager in the NHS or defence could be in charge of 100s people and with a budget of £billions, yet being paid £60k. Compare that to the private sector where it would be a chief exec well into six figures and you realise the public sector manager is not being paid a lot for suffering a heck of a lot of hassle and responsibilities.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Wish it felt like it

      Including the once yearly (non pensionable) bonus, my pay sits at about £300 a week. Although the real monthly take home is far less than that because the bonus is once a year.

      For my pay I not only do my own job, but cover most of the responsibilities of our line manager (the post has been vacant for 18 months). Until last October, I was paid an extra £6 a day to cover these duties, but to save money they stopped it knowing FULL well that I would still have to do the work, paid or not.

      Some of the extra duties can be ignored, but some of them are essential and must be done otherwise everyone around me will be unable to do their work.

      The problem is, it's very easy to generalise. I could claim that all Private sector employees get paid a fortune for far less work, but I know it doesn't apply to everyone. At my level, I could be earning much more for less work in the private sector, but there were a few factors that drew me to the public sector - better pensions and training. With the cuts we've had so far, the training budget is almost non-existant, and our pensions will be next.

      Someone was in the news for saying that "there are a lot of bone idle" people in the public sector today. I don't care what industry you're in, there will always be bone idle people, and there will be workaholics. Is it fair that the two get paid the same? No, but what are you going to do?

      I'm paid slightly more than the average PA, yet I'm expected to take responsibility for some very expensive kit and trust me, if something goes walkies, there's no lassaiz faire attitude to it.

      I'm sure there are those higher up who get paid £465 or more a week, but that's the problem with averages. If the figures are massively skewed (Simple example, Two people on £25,000 and one on £100,000) you get a very deceiving result.

      I've finished my pot noodle, so I'd better get on!

  2. Anonymous Coward


    Oh look some more headline fodder for the daily wail.

    Strange that the average is so high when my partner and colleagues earn so much less, with some people on just over the min wage Its a shame that the real picture isn't highlighted rather than skewed stats twisted to build support for cuts to public sector workers. Its time this stuff was split to exclude managers, then you would see a far different picture.

    But as ever there are Lies, Damned lies and Statistics - especially when we are being prepared for a deep and thorough reaming to cover the mis-management and mistakes of both politicians and boards of big business - 2 sectors that wont be expected to take much in the way of personal pain for the problems their ineptitude and greed caused.

  3. leona 2

    Boiling blood

    This kind of TWODDLE makes my blood boil, what a load of Poppy Cock, I work in public sector and get paid 25-30% LESS than I would in the private sector. I work in public sector because I'm disabled and the Private sector doesn't want to know (I've tried, MANY TIMES). One of the only good things about public sector is the pension, but first you have to get there, they keep moving the age of retirement, then they change the amount you get, (the 85 year rule has gone, for example), I wish they'd leave us Public Sector employees alone, and look closer at the financial and legal sectors, who are making a killing. Most public sector employees earn LESS than the national average, its only the 'top flight' manages etc that push the stats up.

    1. webster phreaky ate my iphone

      @leona 2

      If you can't get a job in the private sector, how do you know you're earning 25-30% less than if you were there?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @webster phreaky ate my iphone

        If you can't get a job in the private sector, how do you know you're earning 25-30% less than if you "were there?"

        My daughter went from the private sector to the public sector last year. She earns 30% less than she did in the private sector for near enough the exact same job.

        And I have to laugh at all you twonks taking government statistics at face value.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Worthless study

    Statitics say nothing in this case except give the moaners and whingers ammo against Public Sector staff. I take it they took into consideration the CEO's and executive tier of public sector for this study which will no doubt skew the results considerably.

    Also when you mention bonuses in the article I'm presuming that refers to private sector as in the 10yrs I've been doing public sector, no one I know as ever heard or seen sight of a bonus.

    I'm still on less money than my private sector counterparts and I'm sure the staff that get less than me would prefer a private sector wage instead.

    1. Alex Rose


      Well if they included the CEOs and executive tier of the public sector I'm sure they included it for the private sector as well. So your implication that the results are skewed is totally misleading.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Worded badly

        I didn't word that very well, my point was I think the gap between exec tier and workers further down the chain appears to be bigger than in the private sector. If you stripped out the exec tier and CEO's for both sectors and just based the figures on the actual workers it might be slightly different (seeing as there isn't that much of a difference according to teh headline figures quoted in the report).

  5. fixit_f


    I thought conventional wisdom was that public sector employees earn less in exchange for a more cushy life and (in the old days before the impending cuts) final salary pensions / more holidays / more job security ?

    Do they really take more home on average too?

    1. Your Handle, my Handle, it's all good

      erm, yeah ...

      got to admit, this has always been my assumption aswell?

      Private sector to me meant longer hours and far more stress for better money?

      Maybe I should start looking for a job in the public sector?

  6. Gavin McMenemy

    What a load of rubbish

    I realise that you are reporting on the ONS stats but come on... you can't see any bias or skew in there?

    Tell me how an average salary accurately reflects the pay disparity between a doctor and a nurse, or a low grade (AA?) clerk with a whitehall mandarin?

    I don't have high expectations of the government but I do have higher expectations of El Reg.

    1. Alex Rose


      And how does it accurately reflect the pay disparity between bar staff and the CEO of BP? Seriously if you are going to claim the methodology of the study shows bias against public sector workers at least pick a part of the methodology that doesn't skew BOTH figures!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I didn't notice any boot in the fine article, which looks studiously neutral to me. Indeed, the sub-heading "Lies, damned lies and statistics" suggests a certain skepticism about the data.

    Your inordinate sensitivity on the subject of public sector pay, however, does tell me something about your views and assumptions.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stats mean nothing at all.

    "The rest of the ONS numbers...." are all pure guess work. Lets bag them and bin them and save the money!

  9. Anonymous Coward

    I wonder what these numbers would look like...

    ... if you took out the doctors, and surgeons?

    Just goes to show you can prove anything with statistics...

    The real test of course is for any given job, where would you earn more - in the public or private sector?

    IT is a classic example - public sector IT workers earn at best average salaries compared to their private sector equivalents (ignoring the "masters of the universe" salaries at the top)

    1. Anonymous Coward

      ... and a nother thing

      If you look at the details in the report, you will find that employees of "public corporations" (RBS and Nortthern Rock!) are included in the public sector calculations!

      So all those fat banker salaries are in there too...

      As almost everyone else has said on this thread - the statistics are meaningless... unless your are a Daily Mail journalist, in which case have at ye!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'd Be Happy

      If I could earn a 'master of the solar system' salary!

      As it stands, I couldn't even claim to be master of the local dump (and I don't mean Norwich!)

    3. webster phreaky ate my iphone

      Not a lot actually

      It's the median, rather than the mean. As there aren't many surgeons/doctors/highly paid civil servant, taking them out will have a minimal effect on median earnings. It's what the majority of people earn that makes the big difference. I'd be curious to know if either statistic included part time staff - that's likely to 'distort' the median downwards...

  10. Ryan Kendall
    IT Angle

    Public pays less

    I work in public sector IT, private sector pays allot more for the same sort of work i do.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hmmmm not the full story

    I'd love to see these figues with pension benefits factored in. PricewaterhouseCoopers recently calculated that the average private sector worker would need an extra 37% in salary to match the public sector benefits.

    And as for those complaining that doctors, senior civil servants etc. skew the public figures upwards, ever heard of company directors, barristers, etc?

    1. dedmonst


      >> And as for those complaining that doctors, senior civil servants etc. skew the public figures upwards, ever heard of company directors, barristers, etc?

      The NHS employs about 1.6-1.7m people - of those about 160k are Doctors of some sort...

      Show me a private sector organisation where 10% of the employees earn over £80K...

      This number of people will even effect the median...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        How many in the NHS are on the basic minimum wage, not many if any at all. Contrast this with the large numbers in the private sector. This too will effect the median, in the other direction.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    not so

    "This kind of TWODDLE makes my blood boil, what a load of Poppy Cock, I work in public sector and get paid 25-30% LESS than I would in the private sector"

    Which for most public sector roles is typically offset by a final salary pension (typically worth 30-40% of pay as an employer contribution), early retirement, TOIL, more sickness absence and paid leave etc etc.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Final What?

      Final Salary? I Wish!

      Granted I know people who've been here long enough to have one, but not me sadly. Retirement age has been moved, so no early retirement. TOIL, who has the time to take TOIL? If I do that, I'll have to do more unpaid overtime to catch up with the backlog.

      Sickness absence does seem to be longer, but that's not a lot of use to me. I'm very rarely ill, despite being partially disabled and on a cocktail of drugs, so doesn't bolster my pay. I do get more paid leave than most I know in the private sector, but we're talking about 2 days on average. Fancy being paid less for those extra two days?

      To be fair, you did say MOST roles, but in my case it doesn't hold true, and similarly for most of my collegues.

      Incidentally, I'm not the person you quoted!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    cost of pensions

    "I'd love to see these figues with pension benefits factored in. "

    The latest figures do just that - and the average public sector worker is currently receiving a pension benefit equivalent from their employers equivalent to 28% of salary.

    With pension costs added in, the average public sector salary rises from £462 a week to £615 a week - this compares to the private sector (pay + pension) of £479 a week.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    I wonder why...

    The government must be about to decimate the public services which would explain all of the animosity towards them currently in all the press - they're trying to soften the blow.

    What a sorry situation we're in where public sector workers are now more hated than the bankers and politicians that got us into this mess.

    Just in case anyone wants to see an example of the astronomical salaries paid by the NHS, have a look here: - not quite as high as you expect is it?

  15. Anonymous Coward

    I don't know where they get those figures....

    ...but since I joined the public sector all our nationally negotiated pay rises have been below inflation. We didn't get a pay rise last year, (not publicised) didn't get one this year (start of the coalitions barking mad table thumping) and we're not going to get one for another two years.

    We've got staff who, even prior to the coalition, were doing the maths and would have been better off on benefit.

    I want to know how long before the Lib Dems pull the rug from under the coalition. It has got to happen. Or do they reckon that they've wrecked their reputation so badly that they might as well stick it out for the ride?

  16. SlabMan

    Step by step

    Step 1: stir up anti-public sector feelings

    Step 2: slash public sector

    Step 3: token tax cuts for the voters

    Step 4: privatise public services

    Step 5: well-paid non-exec sinecure

    Result: profit!

    1. Alex Wells

      Depressingly Familiar

      Didn't this happen in the 80's? Aren't we still trying to recover Public services? Wouldn't we all be happier if Tories (and their associated Newspapers) fucked off?

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Working on both sides

    I'm amazed at the amount of vitriol this thread has generated. I'm particularly impressed with the number of lame reasons why people thing the statistics are skewed.

    I've worked both in government and in the private sector, both sides I worked in management and employed large numbers of programmers. If I do a like for like comparison I get an interesting discovery. In the civil service, employing people outside London, we used to get programmers at certain minimum grades that meant that a non-managing programmer would earn from between £20k to £35k depending on length of service. In the private sector our starting salary for programmers was £18k, and we paid up to just under £30k.

    On top of that the civil servants got an outstanding pension scheme - the private sector people have to pay their own contributions. Also leave and other benefits were better in the civil service. The main thing that made recruitment difficult into the civil service was the need for security clearance, which took about 6 months, and by the time it had gone through, the individual had usually found another job.

    A lot of the civil servants had convinced themselves that the grass was greener on the other side, but the reality was, it isn't. Before anyone asks, I left for other reasons, and now work in another country.

    Overall though, I'm not in the least bit surprised to see these figures, and I find them wholly believable.

    As an aside, I remember the policies on pay reviews in public and private sector. In the civil service, everyone would get a pay increment for a year extra seniority, as well as the nationally negotiated increase which was consistently above the base rate of inflation. This generally meant that most people got between 5 and 10% increases each year. In the private sector, the company I worked for paid people a cost of living increase fixed at the base rate of inflation; and then all other increases were wholly discretionary. You didn't get an increase just because you worked for the company another year. The vast majority of people got a 2-4% increase, with a tiny handful of stars getting much higher increases.

    In the civil service it didn't really matter how good you were at your job, unless you got promoted (which depended primarily on availability of promotions), you got paid pretty much the same as all your colleagues. In the private sector, if you are really good, you can get very rapid increases in pay. This is one of the reasons why it is very hard to retain very good people in the civil service.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Black Helicopters

      A few bits

      Public sector only get an anual increment prividing they aren't at the top of their scale. Once they reach that, there is nowhere else to go. I was employed already at the top of my scale so I get no such enhancement. Even someone at the bottom of their scale would only get the increase for four or five years.

      Even then, it is not automatic and a manager can refuse to allow an individual that increase for performance reasons.

      Working in the private sector came with numerous bonuses outside the pay scale, whatever they employer wanted to grant. Expenses ... well ... it isn't public money so as long as the boss is OK with whatever rules they've drawn up, no one is going to query.

      If you work for a hardware company you usually get parts at cost. Work for a bank, get preferential rates on loans and financial services. Compnay had a good year, then everyone can be instructed to get a bottle of champagne and put it on expenses (that happened to me a few times) and as for meals and gifts and perks ... it was a very good life for me in the private sector. Got to see a bit of Europe as well. Overtime was a regular occurance; if not due to actual work, then usually due to travelling time.

      Public sector? Forget it. If a company gives you something or you go out for lunch, it all has to be written down in a book and can be taxed as a benefit.

      With a private company, we made most of the rules. If something had to be done, we did it. Day or night, if something needed to be done, we did it. No one told us who we could and couldn't deal with; we made the decisions and got on with the job.

      Public sector is mostly 9 to 5. No chance of overtime in most areas. We have to deal with masses of rules, get multiple quotes and all the paraphanalia that comes with being responsible and accountable for public money. It is only recently that we have been allowed to take quality of service in to account, instead of going with the lowest bidder.

      Coming from the private sector in to the public sector firstly felt like walking in beurocratic treacle. I can't afford all the nice things I used to be able to buy, all the toys and stuff, but now I have a life outside work.

  18. Gav

    It was a different story when the private sector was cash rich

    Here's the deal;

    Public sector workers take the pay cuts in the tough times, along with the private sector workers.

    In return, when the good times return, the private sector workers share their bonuses, incentive payments and other profit-related freebies that the public sector workers never, ever get.

    Seems fair to me. Deal? Anyone? No? ......didn't think so.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Let me educate you...

      Firstly, most private sector workers don't get bonuses, we are not all bankers. Most don't get a cost of living pay increase either, they get what the company can afford/get away with. I seem to remember quite a few bonus announcements in the public sector, a huge chunk of the MoD for example not just the top tier.

      Secondly, in the good times (pre bust) public sector wages rose faster than the private sector. That's how we got to the present situation where public sector wages are higher. And I don't recall any public sector pay cuts in the last 40 years by the way - freeze yes, cut no. But hey welcome to the real world.

      I don't think this is vitriol towards the public sector in general. I think that many private sector workers are finding out just how unfair the system is. For example, that extra 28% pension contribution from the employer into the public sector pension. The employer is the taxpayer, 80% of whom are private sector workers. Most of them have watched their own pensions dwindle or disappear or be taxed (thanks Gordon) whilst they are taxed further to pay that 28%. Yes public sector workers pay that tax too but they will get it back in their pension. As for taking the pain of the recession, the private sector, ordinary working people not the banks, have taken all the pain so far. Pay cuts, pay freezes, redundancies etc..... you've seen the headlines no doubt.

      1. dedmonst

        so your logic is...

        ... our bosses sh*t on us, so we don't care (in fact we'd actively encourage the idea) if your bosses sh*t on you...

        I don't work in the public sector (they couldn't afford me - what does that say!), but I take no joy in seeing them take the brunt of this current round of media viliffication... people all seem to forget that these aren't "faceless beaureacrats", they are real people with homes and cars and families... no doubt as with _any_ organisation, there are efficiencies to be made (heck there are plenty of horribly inefficient private sector organisations out there!) but if you think public sector pay is one of them, I suspect you are wide of the mark.

        And as for the pensions... well talk to public sector workers - few beleive they will ever get what has bee promised - they all know its only a matter of tiume before the government (whichever one it might be) reneges on the pension agreements in the same way the private sector has done.

        The worrying thing in the private sector is just how many folks have no pension provision at all any more... the practice of moving jobs every 3-5 years (often as the only way to get a pay rise), means many have tiny packets of investement all over the place - personally I expect the retirement age to have been raised so far I 'll end up working til I drop!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          A very good post

          There is one thing that appears the same whether private or public sector ... the people at the top awarding themselves more money and destroying the people beneath them.

          If there is one change that is needed (and I did suggest this to the government responses) is that councillors need more party support.

          Some councillors come and go so don't know the ropes. They don't know how and where to check in order to ensure they're getting the right facts and figures from the managers.

          Without this knowledge, the councillors can't keep a check on the managers that look after the services and the parties should be giving their councillors that ability, that knowledge, and providing services to the councillors as well ... services by which the councils financial report can be submitted to a financial expert for interpretation.

          That was another suggestion I made ... standardise the format of the local government financial reports so that they are easier to read and interpret; so that the financial teams can't hide unpleasent information. Most financiers know that people with little time on their hands will start to read, then get tired and jump to the back hoping to find anything that they think is buried ... as a result te unplesent stuff gets put in the middle of the report.

          Sort out the bad managers ... the people with their fingers on the financial trigger ... and you'll be a godo step forward to getting value for public money.

  19. Alex Wells
    Dead Vulture

    I bloody hate journos

    One quote from the report is all it takes for debasing idiot news articles:

    "in general, for full-time employees who are members of employer pension schemes, total reward is greatest in the private sector."

    Not slagging off the Reg directly - who unfortunately borrowed this non-story from the massively crap British media.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Most FS empoyer schemes have now gone in the private sector...

      ...and that a huge number of employees in the private sector have no pension provision at all.

      So the report says that, in general, a minority of private sector workers enjoy greater rewards than the majority of the public sector.

      No s**t Sherlock!

  20. YumDogfood

    Even if the Tories "effed' off" we are still broke.

    Rather, even less than broke - we are in serious, serious, debt with precious few ways to pay. The cuts are of a scale to just slow the economic car crash, not punt us back into the black, and without new business a day of reckoning is still ahead.

    Just tell me how anyone else would deal with this, and _where_ the money would come from?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ask for it back

      ...from the banks.

      As it is, we're in line for a large interest pay out when the banks give it back.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      To get the money back jobs have ...

      to stay in the country. This involves not outsourcing jobs of any type, from IT services to manufacturing, anything that can be built, produced, service provided needs to be done in country. Get people employed. The way to do this is not through subsidies or tax breaks from the government but making the cost imported goods more expensive through taxes.

      Developed countries cannot compete with the cost of wages that can be paid in the under developed countries, including the lack of environmental regulations. The only way for the developed countries to maintain viable economies is to tax ALL imported goods and services so that the cost of those goods and services are equivalent to those of the country to which they are being imported. This includes paying all imported foreign workers the same salaries and benefits as the workers in the country they are working, otherwise those workers are being exploited, and if that is not economically feasible then those workers weren't being used to provide special skills.

      An undesirable effect of this is that the cost of many things will go up, but it is important to remember that most of use in the developed world have much more than we need and REALLY need to slow our spending and save some money. Whoa less stuff, what a concept.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unison press release on the subject



    UNISON, the UK’s leading public sector trade union, today hit back at a right wing think tank’s attack on public sector pay, calling on it to ditch the attacks and look at the facts. The union is warning that their flawed analysis, comparing pay in the private and public sector, is worthless.

    Widespread privatisation has taken the lowest paid out of the public sector, and including workers in the nationalised banks such as Northern Rock and Royal Bank of Scotland further distorts the results. These are unreliable comparisons.

    In addition, many professional jobs in the public sector, such as social workers and teachers, just do not exist in the private sector, making it impossible to compare like with like.

    Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary, said:

    “Widespread privatisation has taken many low wage cleaning, home care, school meals and refuse collection jobs out of the public sector. Left behind are a larger concentration of professional workers. A recent Office for National Statistics labour force survey reveals that professional workers now make up 24% of the public sector workforce. In the private sector, this figure drops to just 8.6%.

    “The public should not be fooled by this divisive attack on public sector wages. The government’s plans to cut public spending hard and fast have been proved to hit those on low incomes hardest. This includes the ‘waitresses and hairdressers’ the Institute for Economic Affairs claims it is trying to protect.

    “It is a red herring to compare pay in the public and private sectors in this way. There are millions more people employed in the private sector, across a much wider spread of earnings, which means simply taking an average figure and comparing it tells us nothing at all.

    “A meaningless figure is further distorted by the inclusion of people working in the nationalised banks, such as Northern Rock, Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds, in the public sector earnings statistics.

    “Public sector workers who save for their retirement will get a pension, but it is hardly gold plated. Local government workers can expect an average pension of just £4,000 when they retire, dropping to £2,800 for women. The real pensions scandal is the profit making private companies who pay their boardroom bosses mega salaries and pensions, but shut their workers out of saving for their retirement.

    “It is a disgrace that only half of private sector workers are able to save for their retirement – and it will cost the taxpayer billions in means-tested benefits.”


  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Generally in the boom/bust style cycle (and as seen by me in 11 years at the same place) when times are good the money flows through the business and people are hired etc. And then in the bad times the money dries up, cuts are made and that usually means redundancies.

    Given that Labour effectively hired a fair few extra people in the good times, surely the ConDems are going to have to slim things down in the bad times?

    It's a rather simplistic view I admit, but in this situation the economy may as well be a big shit sandwhich and everyone's going to have to take a bite. Though some people may not mind the taste as much as others...

  23. Alfonso Vespucci


    See what happens when you re-introduce outdoor poor relief?

    The private sector sees a subsidy for low wages in the form of tax credits and responds accordingly - by depressing the wages of the low skilled.

    My local supermarket has recently stopped using its own staff for Sunday opening and brought in contractors to save money. The workforce is divided between those who qualify for tax credits and aren't too bothered because their pay is topped up, and the new "undeserving poor", outside of the tax credit system who just have to lump it. Solidarinos? no chance. (apolgies to any Poles reading)

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