Should we still be paying for public sector pensions?


pension protestSang Tan/AP/Press Association Images

Public sector workers used to make a clear argument for their pension. Yes, they had generous pensions, but in order to enjoy them, they had to put up with impossible hours and low pay. However, government figures reveal that neither of those things are true any more.

So now the private sector is working harder and for less pay than their public sector counterparts - should they still be paying for their generous pensions?

Better pensions

The figures, from the Office for National Statistics, reveal that a much higher proportion of employees in the public sector (82%) belong to a current occupational pension scheme than their counterparts in the private sector (38%). The average value of a public sector pension was £90,100 - more than double than that of employees in the private sector (£40,000).

Better terms

At the same time, the ONS shows that public sector employees are being paid more. In 2011, public sector staff were paid on average between 7.7% and 8.7% more than private sector workers. The average public sector salary last year was £28,802 - compared to £25,000 in business.

It also shows that working hours are marginally longer in the private sector, at 33.2 hours a week compared to the public sector at 30.5 hours a week - which makes the difference in the hourly rate even more stark.

It seems, therefore, to show that life is altogether better in the public sector - before you even consider the sums of cash that private sector employees are having to plough into public sector pensions.

Is this fair?

It makes it hard to argue, for example, in favour of strikes called in an effort to stop public sector pension reform - which will still make them more generous than a typical pension in business.

However, it's not quite that clear cut. People in the public sector tend to have more qualifications at a higher level: there are more graduates for example. They are also likely to be older and more skilled (skilled work makes up 31% of public sector jobs compared to 26% in the private sector).

These things all serve to push up the averages. In fact, if you have a degree, you are better off in the private sector - where wages for this group are around 4% higher.

But what do you think? is it fair? Let us know in the comments.