Public Values

Study debunks myth of higher public sector pay

Main difference is stronger pay equity for female public employees.

Moist: Misconception that public workers paid more than private used to attack public sector workersOTTAWA, ON, December 13, 2011: There is no evidence the average pay of public sector workers in Canada is consistently higher than comparable occupations in the private sector, reports a new study released by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).

Battle of the Wages: Who gets paid more, public or private sector workers analyzes Census data at the most detailed occupational level available. By comparing average pay in comparable occupations, the study gives the most accurate snapshot of how public sector workers' pay compares to the private sector.

"There is widespread misconception that public sector workers are paid more than their private sector counterparts, and this is being used as fuel in unnecessary and unwarranted attacks on public sector jobs, wages, benefits and even the most basic rights of public sector workers," said Paul Moist, national president of CUPE. "This report clearly dispels this myth once and for all."

  "Growing inequality is damaging our economic growth."

While the study shows overall average pay is similar, it also found smaller inequities between genders, age groups, regions and top and lowest income earners in the public sector compared to the private sector.

The small overall "pay premium" of 0.5 percent for public sector workers can be attributed entirely to a smaller pay gap for women in the public sector. On average, women employed in public sector jobs are paid 4.5 percent more than women in comparable occupations in the private sector, while men in the public sector are paid an average of 5.3 percent less.

"Stronger pay equity rules have reduced the pay gap for women in the public sector," said Toby Sanger, the study's author. "If public sector wages reflected the standards of the private sector, women in the public sector would be paid an average of $1,980 less per year and there would be greater disparities for others as well. Public sector pay scales should reflect the broader values of Canadians."

"The IMF, Conference Board of Canada and the OECD have all recently raised concern that growing inequality is damaging our economic growth. Public sector wage scales reduce income inequality, help stabilize the economy and should be a model for the private sector, with decent wages for the lowest paid and less excess at the top," said Sanger.

Related individuals, organizations and significant events
To read the report, including detailed analysis, explanation of methodology and recommendations, please click here.

Links and sources
  New study dispels myths about public sector pay

Posted: December 15, 2011

  Public services
  Front lines

Public Values ( is a project of the Golden Lake Institute and the online publication

Public Values
Donate to
Health care
Public services
Natural resources
Front lines
Voices of privatization
Feedback and dialogue
About Us
What is framing?
Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Updated frequently
To view photo captions, run your mouse over the photo
Bookmark and Share

© Golden Lake Institute/, 2007-11 owns copyright on all staff-written articles.
We encourage others to freely distribute material from this website but, without explicit permission,
Web publishers may only use short excerpts that also include credit to us and a reference to our site for the full article.
This site is managed by the Golden Lake InstituteVisit Golden Lake Institute Website and Straight Goods NewsVisit Straight Goods News Website
For comments or suggestions, please contact the Editor
For technical issues, please contact the Webmaster