Daily Mail’s baseless ‘pay apartheid’ slur on public sector

The Daily Mail has mounted its highest of horses this morning, attacking the public sector over higher average pay than the private sector.

The Daily Mail has mounted its highest of horses this morning, attacking the public sector over higher average pay than the private sector.

It even goes as far as to compare the position of private sector workers to that of black South Africans before 1994, referring to a ‘pay apartheid‘.

The report says:

“Official figures show that the average public sector worker now earns around £4,200 more every year than the typical employee in the private sector…

“Yesterday’s figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that a typical state worker scoops a weekly pay package of £554 before tax, equal to an annual salary of £28,808.”

However, these figures – a straight comparison of average earnings in public sector and private sector employees as found in the ONS’s latest Economic and Labour Market Review – cannot be used to compare pay rates for four reasons:

1) Employees who work for private companies with public sector contracts, the so-called ‘outsourced sector’, tend to have low-pay occupations. These are counted by the ONS as being part of the private sector.

Ironically, the article draws on support from a quotation from the TaxPayers’ Alliance, who have promoted “ruthless outsourcing” with the potential to lead to a greater disparity in average public and private sector pay.

2) The ONS figures do not compare like-for-like jobs. As the TUC’s head of campaigns and communications and Left Foot Forward contributor Nigel Stanley has shown, when employees with similar qualifications are compared, a different picture appears.

Public sector graduates are paid 3.4 per cent less in the private sector, while public sector workers with higher education qualifications short of a degree earn 6.2 per cent less than their private sector counterparts.

3) While the proportion of public sector staff with a degree increased from 25 per cent to 39 per cent from 1998 to 2009, it has only increased from 15 per cent to 20 per cent in the private sector. Given that almost double the proportion of public sector workers have degrees compared to the private sector, one would expect a pay gap, and an expanding one at that.

4) The average given for public sector pay is further inflated by the inclusion of Northern Rock, Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyd’s and Bradford and Bingley staff in the public sector figures since the bank bailouts.

Where the public sector does pay more than the private sector is among those with the lowest skills, while pay for those with A-Levels is comparable between the public and private sectors.

However, to judge a pay gap between the public and private sector exists, and that one exists so heinous that it can be compared to political system based on racial segregation and discrimation, on the Economic and Labour Market Review statistics alone, is absurd. Such a conclusion can only be reached with the help of some pre-existing prejudices concerning the public sector.

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