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Government vs private sector jobs

October 2009

I have been a government worker for the past 22 years,
but have also spent some time working in the private sector, so I do
have an opinion on both. I’m not trying to convert anyone to the side
of government workers. Anyone who, shall we say, has a dislike of
public service workers, will probably still feel the same way after
reading this column.  One particular issue has been muddied in this
whole debate, and hopefully I can add a different perspective to the

Although things are tough right now in most private sector
industries, when times are good, there is the potential to make very
good money. White collar workers, particularly senior managers, can be
eligible for performance bonuses, stock options and other perks that
aren’t found in the public sector. Blue collar workers can also be eligible for these benefits plus overtime shifts to keep up with product demand, in addition to perhaps being paid more than their education level may deserve. When you have someone with a high school
education (if even that) working in a factory making $30 to $40 per
hour, that’s nothing to sneeze at. I know that may sound very elitist,
and in the interest of disclosure I am a university graduate, but quite
frankly, you don’t generally see someone with a PhD working on the line
in a factory for 20 to 30 years.

Both blue and white collar workers may also be eligible for company pension plans, sometimes very lucrative ones as auto-sector workers have, and generous retirement
benefits. Some private sector workers may receive extra compensation
due to the fact that their job security can sometimes change on a daily
basis. You need look no further than those in radio broadcasting who
have lost their job due to a change in the station’s format to see why
some have a compensation package attached to their contract for sudden
job loss.

Those who work on commission know that the more sales
they generate, the better the rewards can be. Those business-savvy
people, including the self-employed, who are good at building up a
strong client base for their product or service, can make big bucks.

Skilled tradespeople like plumbers and electricians generally make very good
wages and are often in demand. Even during an economic downturn,
general contractors can reap large paychecks due to people renovating
their existing homes instead of selling.

On the other side of the issue, while government workers can make a very good wage,
unless you are a senior level manager in your ministry or agency, very
few government workers get rich. This brings me to the point of my
column; that being that I always took my above average job security,
good benefits and pension, as the trade-off to the potential big money
opportunities in the private sector. Should public sector workers face
wage freezes or cuts to benefits during bad economic times? I would
have to concede yes but (and this is where I will probably sound like
I’m entitled to my entitlements), would private sector workers concede
that we should see our pay and benefits rise accordingly when the
economy rebounds? Most Federal government employees saw their wages
frozen for for most of the 1990s and it took years after that to catch
up to where they would have been if not for the recession. Some federal
employees still haven’t caught up. How many in the private sector saw
their pay still frozen, even when the economy recovered?

When the economy is good, shouldn’t everyone benefit?

Anyone who works deserves to be paid and paid well for what they do.  If
people in the private sector think that government workers have it so
good, why not apply for a government job?  I definitely made a
conscious decision to work in the public sector.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/government-vs-private-sector-jobs/

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