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Feds work less, earn more than private-sector employees -- or so people believe

How’s this for public opinion: A recent poll shows that most adult Americans believe government employees have an easier job and make more money compared with their industry counterparts.

Sixty-six percent of respondents in an April 6 Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey said private-sector employees work harder than those in government. Only 8 percent say government employees grind away the most.

Astonishingly, many government respondents agree with these perceptions. Forty-six percent of government workers say their industry colleagues work harder, while nearly one-third says the contrary is true.

More than half (56 percent) of the respondents also believe the average government worker has a bigger paycheck than the average private-sector employee, while 23 percent say those in industry make the most money. Twenty-one percent are uncertain about which of the two rakes in the most dollars.

When it comes to job security, almost 70 percent of respondents believe government workers have better chances of keeping their jobs than those in the private sector. And most government respondents agree with that; 62 percent said they have greater job security than those in industry.

Respondents were also asked what impact would an expanding federal workforce have on the economy. Forty-four percent said more public-sector hiring would have a bad effect on the economy, while 38 percent said adding more civil servants would have a positive results.

The survey was based on the responses from 1,000 American adults, with more respondents citing Republican party affiliation (37 percent) than Democratic (31 percent). More women than men were polled (54 percent vs. 46 percent), and the largest age demographic was those in the 18-to-39 range.

What's your take on the survey findings?



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Reader comments

Wed, Apr 11, 2012

I have 30 years in one of the government's (DoD)professional fields - contracting. We always work a ton of extra hours, and have a never ceasing backlog of responsibilities. We spend hours of every day in meetings advising agency personnel or negotiating with vendors, and then work late to get the paperwork part of the job done, which Congress and oversight make more difficult every year. My industry counterparts work as hard, make a lot more money, but don't have the job security. In addition, we in the DoD have the motivation of an important mission that we must support every day. It's hard work, but it's rewarding. My observation is that these things are true of most of the professional fields requiring certification in DoD, like engineering, program management, etc. The government jobs that are higher paying than industry are administrative, logistical, facility support, etc. And yes, our vacation time is better. Old timers like me have a good pension, but government employees with less years have a retirement plan that is very similar to defense industry companies. I hate to see these sweeping generalizations about government jobs because the reality really does vary from agency to agency and job to job.

Wed, Apr 11, 2012 OccupyIT

I wonder why folks rise to the bait on things like this. On both sides (USG and Contractor) we have islands of overworked excellence surrounded by swamps of mediocrity. The major difference is that most contractors simply can't afford to have slackers jeopardize a contract and get rid of them pretty ruthlessly - for the most part. That is, there is a natural market pressure on them. In general, direct hires a fairly free to miss deadlines without being held accountable - not always the case but generally they just don't have the same natural pressures of only having 30 hours for a deliverable. I have worked with heroes on both sides but lets face it most people will camp out if no one is forcing them to work and there is definately less pressure on the USG side. Most of the heroes work hard IN SPITE of those that don't. Thank you to all of you heroes no matter where you work!

Wed, Apr 11, 2012 Linda Arlington, VA

I am retired from the DoD and am now a contractor. I know that when I was with the government I worked extremely hard. I felt my pay was good, but also felt it was better on the outside. As a contractor, my pay is comparable, but if I were back in the government right now, my pay would be higher by about $15,000. My benefits are very good, but don't include retirement - just the 401k which is good. I do work more hours due to the fact I work on proposals. That means I work many uncompensated hours of overtime. Bonuses are better in private industry. My husband is still in the government supporting the Army. He hasn't had a promotion in 20 years. He only gets the COLA when it is given - none since 2010 and not for the forseeable future thru 2015. He works lots of uncompensated overtime. So we both work very hard and earn every penny. Leave is better with the government. I was getting 26 days annual and 13 sick every year with the government. I now get 25 days a year total. Many times I have had to work through my vacations. Some vacation! The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. And no, most government employees do not get lavish trips to Vegas and rip off tax payers by overspending on food and parties. That is by no means the norm in the government. I think it was just poor judgement of a few people. Those who were fired will probably lose their pensions. Bet they wish now they hadn't made those choices.

Wed, Apr 11, 2012

I took a slight hourly pay cut coming from the private sector to work for the Fed. However, my actual pay was much higher because of the benefits - I paid several thousand a year less in Medical insurance while getting a slightly better plan. On top of that, I got double the annual and sick leave and almost double the holiday leave. That does not even consider the job security and all the additional money earned because I was always working. Because I started at Step 1, I saw a much more rapid increase in pay when getting both step increases and cost of living increases - than I ever got with any company I worked with in the private sector. As far as working harder, it varies from year to year and, from what I have seen from from my coworkers in both the private sector and the Fed, the bottom level employees work about the same while the higher level people generally work harder in the private sector. However, when you include all the extra holidays and leave time - the Feds obviously work less. I and others I know who switched from private to Fed came out ahead in every category, with time, by working in the Fed. I am sure there are exceptions, but they have to be the minority - likely a very small minority - and I am sure there are good reasons for those cases. To those who worked almost their entire career as a Fed while complaining the private sector people have it better (I work with a few in that category) - I doubt they have a clue that they really know what they are talking about.

Wed, Apr 11, 2012

I agree with one of the other comments; I have worked in both the commercial and the Government arena. I came to the Government for security and to get away from the constant threat of "what have you done for me today"? My pay is less than it was in the commercial world but unlike in the commercial world, where even if I have made the company 10 of millions of dollars over the past year, the Government doesn't threaten my job because of greed. Regardless of that fact, the survey was of 1000 people. Honestly, how accurate is a survey that represents 1 in 300,000 Americans?

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