So – do we all want jobs in the public sector?

by Barrie Hopson on January 13, 2010 · 0 comments

in New ways of working,portfolio careers

The Sunday Times is currently doing an excellent analysis of the differences in working in the  public sector compared to the private sector. Until the past few years it was always assumed that public sector workers at all levels earned less than their equivalents in the private sector. To compensate for that they had excellent pension plans and most of them could retire at 60. No more. The average salary for public sector workers is now £22,405 with a pension contribution of £3,137 totalling £26,542. The equivalent in the private sector is £22,247. Only the highest 20% of private sector workers are now paid more than their public sector peers. In addition, the public worker’s working week sank from 36 to 35 hours. In the private sector it remains at 37.5 hours.The public sector also enjoy between 3 and 4 more days of holiday a year. They also take more time off sick.Under the present G’ment there are now 6.1 million public sector workers, up 914,000 since 1997. They now represent more than 21% of the entire workforce and in some parts of the country they account for more than 50% of the jobs. This is a higher proportion than Germany, America, Australia and 4 times as much as Japan.  Only Norway, Finland and France had a higher percentage. No wonder that young graduates are flocking to the supposed security of the public sector.  Wouldn’t anyone?

Well no actually. I have had top level discussions in the past few months with senior HR people in a number of G’ment departments and with the TUC. Some of these people, especially those who have come from the private sector, are aghast at the life decisions that young people in their 20’s and 30’s are making. I heard many stories of  people who are not stimulated or challenged by their jobs or the environment in which they work yet they are prepared to don the handcuffs of supposed job security for another 20 – 30 years so that they can then retire and enjoy the ‘good life.’

Many portfolio workers work in the public sector but they either have other jobs in the public sector or some in the private sector. They have chosen a portfolio career pattern because they do not want to mortgage a large swathe of their lives waiting for the ‘good times’. They know what all of us portfolio workers know, which is that we want to live all of our working lives feeling passionate about what we do and using the array of motivated skills that we have. Obviously I am not saying that all public sector workers are time servers but clearly some are and the way the sector is organised often mitigates against experimentation and inspiration. Similarly, there are some terrible employers out there. But one advantage for the portfolio worker is that they do not become dependant on any one employer. If they cannot find what they want they look for another piece or work that suits them better.

So if you are envious of those workers in the public sector just ask yourself why and would you be prepared to pay the price that some of them clearly pay?

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