NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Government Employees Work Less than Private-Sector Employees

September 20, 2012

Researchers have found using the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) that the average government employee works less than private sector employees do. 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, says Jason Richwine, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation.

Using a dataset sponsored by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, researchers interviewed workers about their work time during a 24 hour period, to take into account late night and weekend work.

  • The data produced a sample of 1,776 federal workers, 8,053 state and local workers and 39,042 private-sector workers.
  • The data shows that private-sector employees put in 41.4 hours during a typical week.
  • This is in contrast to the 38.7 hours federal employees work per week and 38.1 hours state and local government employees work.
  • In a year's total, private-sector employees work an average of one more month than government employees.

A regression analysis controlling for occupation and skill also finds that private-sector employees still work more than government employees with the same skill set. Other factors such as education, race, sex and marital status were also controlled for with the same results.

The findings should raise concern for taxpayers who expect that their dollars are being used to receive adequate services. The problem of government employees working less contributes to the overall efficiency of government provided services. Furthermore, with public sector employees expecting private-sector levels of compensation, it is important for lawmakers to ensure that government employees' work time and compensation are the same with those of private-sector employees.

Source: Jason Richwine, "Government Employees Work Less than Private-Sector Employees," Heritage Foundation, September 11, 2012.


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