Professor John Gibson from Waikato University says public servants should be paid less because they get paid more than their private sector equivalents and they enjoy their work.
First, I would be highly suspicious the methodology of any study that claims to compare like with like between the public and private sector. How many police are employed in the private sector? How many legislators, councillors, diplomats, prison staff, policy staff, judges? We know that in sectors with true comparability – health and education, the better pay is in the private sector. Private sector lawyers are also better paid than their public sector counterparts.
Overall, the average public sector wage is higher than the average private sector wage. For a number of good reasons: a) the public sector doesn’t employ in low-paid professions – retail staff, wait staff, cleaners, factory process workers, agricultural workers – the higher average skill level of public sector jobs results in higher average pay. b) government workers are more heavily unionised. Stronger unions = higher pay rises. c) There is a public interest in public sector wages being decent because low wages encourage corruption.
Gibson makes an argument that, frankly, disgusts me: public sector employees enjoy their work more than their private sector counterparts so they should be paid less. Why not just give them really uncomfortable chairs or random electric shocks to take their enjoyment levels down instead?
And notice that Gibson has identified a wage gap between public and private sector and his suggested response is the one that would drive wages lower overall. If wages are lower in the private sector, isn’t that the problem? How are we going to become a higher wage economy if we are constantly forcing wages down?
I have one final question. Professor John Gibson is a public employee. How much is he paid, and does he enjoy his work? If so, should he give some of the money back?