Education and experience account for higher paid public sector jobs

The Fraser Institute and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business having been ratcheting up the war on public sector workers, portraying hospital workers, teachers and other public sector workers as fat cats who are overpaid compared to their private sector counterparts.

Of course, you won’t find anyone in the public sector who earns the kinds of salaries bank executives have been piling up, most major Canadian bank CEOs skyward of $10 million per year.

Free to be as political as they like (no attacks from the Harper government on the Fraser Institute’s charitable status), they use their media-supported bully pulpit to regularly demonize the public sector.

Now a new report from the Centre for Spatial Economics (C4SE) calls into question the assumptions in these attacks.

Noting a 9 per cent difference between public and private sector wages, the C4SE notes that “the most salient reasons for the difference appear to be due to the difference in educational attainment and experience between workers in the public and private sectors.”

Just 20 per cent of private sector workers have a university degree in Ontario compared to 40 per cent of public sector workers. When it comes to post-secondary diplomas, 38 per cent of the public sector have attained them compared to 33 per cent in the private sector.

The report also notes only 9 per cent of workers under 25 have jobs in the public sector.

“The private sector average wage is, therefore, reduced by the high proportion of workers age 15-24 earning relatively low incomes,” C4SE states.

“After accounting for higher education and more experience, wages in the public sector are comparable to those in the private sector,” the report concludes.

For health care and social services workers, comparable average wages are almost identical to the private sector.

The one sector that does stand out is the public energy sector, which is reliant on a high number of engineers and skilled trades.

C4SE regularly provides economic forecasting to eight Canadian governments, including the Province of Ontario.

The new C4SE report, commissioned by OPSEU, looks at the impact of the 2012 budget and the public sector’s contribution to the overall economy.

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