Policy Exchange have a new report out today on the public sector, and while they have tidied up their stats a little – given the hammering dodgy stats on the public sector have got in the past, what they say is still pretty misleading.
For Policy Exchange and the shrink-the-state right every nurse, every doctor, every teacher is a drag on the economy. The rest of us know that they all – and countless other public servants – provide a vital role. Far from holding back the private sector, the public sector educates and trains their workforce, buys many of their goods and services, keeps their staff healthy and provides the vital infrastructure without which the UK would travel back to the 19th century.
Policy Exchange want people to believe that public sector wages have overtaken those in the private sector. This is simply not the case. In every year since 1984 – the earliest year from which official statistics are available – average hourly pay in the public sector has been higher than in the private sector.
This is because the public sector has a much greater proportion of skilled and professional workers such as teachers and doctors than the private sector. In recent years this trend has intensified. Lower paid jobs such as cleaners and care assistants have been privatised, while the big growth in public sector employment under the last government was among professionals such as teachers and doctors.
To compare pay properly you have to look at people doing similar jobs, but this is impossible as jobs differ too much. However, you can compare the pay of people with similar qualifications. These show that graduates earn somewhat less in the public sector while those with no qualifications earn a bit more. This is because the gap between those at the bottom and those at the top in the public sector is smaller than in the private sector – most would think this is a good thing.
Of course they cannot resist citing higher levels of absence in the public sector, even though public sector staff are more likely to work when they are ill.
And it takes real chutzpah to accurately report the collapse in private sector pension provision for the majority of private sector workers – despite the retention of diamond-encrusted, platinum-plated pensions in Britain’s top boardrooms – as a reason for attacking public sector pensions.
It would be equally logical to say that if private sector work places were more dangerous than those in the private sector this should be evened up until as many people were killed at work each year in the public sector.
Under the guise of all-round fairness, Policy Exchange seem to want to bring the worst kind of vulnerable, low-paid, no-rights employment into the public sector. We think that’s a very strange notion of fairness.