Whenever you point out that the average federal worker makes over twice as much in salary and benefits as the average private sector worker, defenders of the public sector are quick to point out that it's not an apples to apples comparison. Federal workers often have to be more skilled than average joe in the private sector.
The San Diego Union-Tribune editorial page takes a look at some new research and finds that this doesn't necessarily account for why federal workers are compensated more:
From 2005 to 2009, median pay for San Diego County’s 46,000-plus federal workers increased by about 14 percent – far better than the 4 percent increase in the county’s private sector. As of 2009, federal workers’ median income of $55,300 was 31 percent higher than the $42,100 median income for private employees.
Anticipating the usual argument made by defenders of relatively high government compensation – that federal workers make more because their jobs usually require more skill, expertise and training than needed for the typical nongovernment job – the U-T’s Danielle Cervantes dug deeper into the numbers. “In almost every industry where there are federal and private-sector jobs in San Diego County, federal workers earn more – that includes construction, manufacturing, financial, professional and business services,” she reported. “The exception is jobs in the information sector.”
Given that federal retirement benefits are considerably better than those normally seen in private industry – if not nearly as generous as those in many of California’s local and state agencies – it is very difficult to justify federal workers getting higher pay than private employees with similar jobs.
The editorial deserves to be read in full, and I suspect the Union-Tribune's call for more parity between the private and public sector jobs is an argument likely to start gaining more traction among the general public.