Posted by: erichosemann | December 15, 2009

The Public-Private Pay Gap–What Can Be Done?

Via E. Frank Stephenson at Division of Labour, an article from USA Today on the explosion in wealth experienced by federal employees.

The portion that got my goat:

“Jessica Klement, government affairs director for the Federal Managers Association, says the federal workforce is highly paid because the government employs skilled people such as scientists, physicians and lawyers. She says federal employees make 26% less than private workers for comparable jobs.”

The reason federal employees make 26% less than private workers is they are 26% less productive than private workers.  This a version of the fallacy non-profit employees tell themselves and each other to boost morale: non-profit workers do their work “for more than just a paycheck.”  As if that 26% deficit equals the amount of “caring,” “heart,” and “passion” they throw unreservedly into their jobs.

What this 26% discrepancy means is that, if in a sudden rupture of the space-time continuum, these impoverished government employees found themselves in private enterprise doing exactly what they were doing in their old government jobs, their supervisors would tell the managers, the managers would meet with the accountants and after a few weeks, days, or hours even, they would experience a 26% pay cut.

If federal government workers were as productive as private sector workers but making only 26% of what private sector workers make, private sector employers would snatch them up in a heartbeat.

I bet Miss Klement’s statistic doesn’t take into account the benefits public sector workers enjoy, which are by private sector standards quite lavish.

I agree with Stephenson: cast the unflinching eye of the Pay Czar down upon the government worker-bees.  Have him compare what they do–what they actually do, not what their job description says they do or their CVs say they can do–to what private sector employees in the same professions do, and pay them accordingly.


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