New research suggests that there is something to the stereotype that government employees work less than their private sector counterparts.
A study from the conservative Heritage Foundation shows that government employees work three hours less per week and roughly one month less per year than private sector workers.
“The ‘underworked’ government employee should be of concern to taxpayers who expect private-sector levels of work in the public sector in exchange for private-sector levels of compensation,” the report says.
During a typical work week, private sector employees work 41.4 hours while federal government employees only work 38.7 hours. State and local government employees work even less, only 38.1 hours during a typical work-week.
This adds up over time and means that federal employees work 3.8 weeks less than private sector workers and state and local employees work 4.7 weeks less than those in the private sector.
“More generally, work time differences are a reminder to lawmakers that they should ensure that public employees’ work time and compensation are generally in line with those of private-sector employees,” the study concludes.
The study also explores whether the results are due to different skills and jobs found in government versus private sector work. But even controlling for these differences yields a large discrepancy, as private sector workers still work 2.2 hours more per week than federal workers and 3.2 more weeks in a year.
Furthermore, private employees work 2.3 hours more per week and 3.3 more weeks per year than state and local employees.
“Therefore, the observed differences in work time are likely due in part to differences in public and private employment per se, not merely differences in types of jobs or workers in each sector,” according to the study.
“With several recent studies suggesting an overall compensation premium for public employees, reducing aspects of that premium—such as paid leave—could be part of a larger strategy to shrink the pay gap and save taxpayer money,” the study continues.
The study used data from the American Time Use Survey, a “time diary” data set sponsored by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which records in detail each respondent’s activities, including work time, during a full 24-hour period.
This measures time worked, but not work effort, effectiveness or productivity, according to Heritage.
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