‘Overpaid Federal Employees’ a Myth Not Grounded in Reality
Federal employees continue to be hounded by complaints that they are overpaid compared to private-sector workers, but the evidence shows that the opposite is true.
Private-sector employees earn 26 percent more than federal employees performing comparable jobs, according to objective compensation surveys by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Some of the largest pay gaps are in the largest metropolitan areas, where most federal employees work, including 36 percent in Washington, D.C., and 26 percent in New York City.
A new poll released Oct. 18 by the Washington Post shows that three-fourths of those surveyed believe federal employees get better pay and benefits than those outside government. But this “finding” was based solely on opinion, not on factual evidence. “It’s time for a reality check.
Just because most Americans believe that federal employees earn more than those in the private sector doesn’t make it so,” American Federation of Government Employees National President John Gage said. Some studies that use Census Bureau data instead of BLS data report that some federal employees earn more than their private-sector counterparts.
The main explanation for the discrepancy is that BLS compares jobs and Census compares individuals. One virtue of the federal government’s pay system is that it does not discriminate against minorities or women to the same extent that the private sector does.
So while the Census data show some federal employees earning slightly more than they would in the private sector, this is because the private-sector data include many firms that pay women and minorities less than white males for doing essentially the same job. Federal contractors also earn far more than the federal employees whose jobs they have taken over.
While the top salary for a regular federal employee this year is $155,500, federal contractors can earn nearly $694,000 per year — nearly three and a half times more than the highest paid federal worker. In addition to salaries, federal employees also get shortchanged when it comes to the health care benefits they receive. According to the last reliable study on the issue, performed nearly two decades ago by the Congressional Research Service, private employers on average spent $1,100 more per employee per year on health insurance benefits than did the federal government.
The only area where federal employees come out ahead is in federal retirement benefits, but that’s only because private-sector employers have slashed or eliminated their pension plans to cut costs at the expense of their own workers’ retirement security.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 600,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.
SOURCE American Federation of Government Employees
Ms. Jensen is a leading advocate for families and children and was the founder and president of ACES, The Association for Children for Enforcement of Support.
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