Kamala Kelkar | US Gov’t employee benefits outweigh private sector
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US Gov’t employee benefits outweigh private sector

By: Kamala Kelkar

Government jobs come with no shortage of perks.

A new report by the Congressional Budget Office finds that, thanks to vastly superior benefit packages, federal workers generally earn 16 percent more in total compensation than their counterparts in the private sector.

On average, the federal government spent 48 percent more per employee on benefits between 2005 and 2010 than did private sector employers.

Health insurance, retirement, and paid vacation benefits were all found to be better for the majority of federal workers, who tend to be older and more educated than those in the private sector, the report said.

While the average salary for federal workers was just 2 percent higher than corresponding private sector pay, the CBO concluded that it paid to be employed by Uncle Sam.

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“Overall, the federal government paid 16 percent more in total compensation than it would have if average compensation had been comparable with that in the private sector,” the report stated.

The publication comes as a prelude to Congress’ vote tomorrow on whether to extend a wage freeze for 2.3 million full-time federal employees through 2013 — a third straight year. In 2011, the report stated, the U.S. paid about $200 billion in salaries and benefits for government workers.

“As American families and businesses have been forced to tighten their belts, Washington has refused to do the same,” Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., the sponsor of the measure to freeze federal pay, said in a statement yesterday. “Congress must be willing to make the same sacrifices we’re asking of others. That’s why I introduced this bill.”

Not all federal workers had it better than those in the private sector, however. The higher one’s educational level, the less certain that a government job offered the better compensation.

Employees who have attained a professional or doctoral level degree earned salaries 23 percent higher in the private sector, as well as more generous benefits packages. For those with a master’s degree, government paid benefits were better than those in the private sector, whose salaries were slightly higher.

Of course, the better benefits ends up costing more money, too.

“For workers at all education levels, the cost of total compensation averaged about $52 per hour worked for federal employees, compared with about $45 per hour worked for employees in the private sector with certain similar observable characteristics,” CBO analysts said in their report.

President Obama’s 2013 budget calls for a 0.5 pay increase for federal workers, who make up 1.7 percent of the U.S. work force.