Don’t misuse flawed data


Don’t misuse flawed pay data, warns Prospect

Prospect has warned that Office for National Statistics data showing an alleged 7.7-8.7% gap between public and private sector pay will be taken out of context by coalition politicians to continue their attacks on public sector workers.

The ONS has acknowledged significant omissions and caveats in its own report, released on Tuesday March 27, and this should be taken into account, believes the union for professionals, managers and specialists.

Prospect head of research Sue Ferns warned: "ONS's latest analysis of hourly earnings in the public and private sectors is likely to be widely misused. If public sector earnings are to be put under the spotlight, this should be done on the basis of like-for-like data – not the limited comparators provided by the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings." Ferns drew attention to six facts highlighted by ONS:

  • Fact 1: The public sector is made up of a higher proportion of higher skilled jobs – a gap that is widening because of outsourcing. The ONS shows that even in the last year the public sector has become relatively more skilled.
  • Fact 2: The ASHE data excludes bonuses as it provides a snapshot of earnings in April – completely missing the private sector bonus season. This is a serious flaw as private sector bonuses are likely to account for at least half of the ONS pay gap.
  • Fact 3: The pattern across the private sector is not uniform. Sectors such as finance and manufacturing enjoy an earnings premium on the public sector, but the average is pulled down by other sectors including hotels, restaurants and retailing.
  • Fact 4: The public sector has a higher proportion of older employees, and earnings tend to increase with age and experience.
  • Fact 5: The public sector workforce contains more people with a degree or an equivalent qualification, and they earn on average 4.1% less than employees in the private sector.
  • Fact 6: 19 per cent of women in the private sector were employed in high skill jobs, compared with 28 per cent in the public sector.

Ferns added: "You simply cannot ask Prospect members to set aside their skills and experience and accept lower pay because they work in the public sector. That will neither attract nor retain the professional workforce that the Government needs."