A mass walkout of public sector workers is hard to miss, so it's
easy to see how rumours can start circulating, putting jobseekers off a career in the public sector.
And so we’ve taken some of the common myths that cropped up in our Totaljobs.com public sector survey and are setting the record straight.
Myth 1 - Low wages
The most common reason given in our survey for not joining the public sector was the expectation of lower wages. While there is a shred of truth that not all roles have super-sized salaries, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) public sector workers on average 4% more than the same workers in the private sector.
Of course, your wages will ultimately depend on the role that you do, as there’s no such thing as an average public sector worker. While a nurse can earn around £25,000 a year, a teacher can take home up to £28,000 and someone in the armed forces can pocket up to £30,000, so the salary expectations are as varied as the job opportunities.
Remember, the economy is hardly anything to write home about at the moment and the grass isn’t greener on the private sector side. They too have had their fair share of wage issues, including pay freezes.
Despite the strikes, those in the public sector can also benefit in the long-term, with better pensions than those in the private sector. And it’s not hard to see why, with only 40% of private sector works enrolled in a form of pension scheme (compared to 90% in the public sector).
Myth 2 - No job security
One of the other big reasons cited in our survey for turning away from the public sector was the thought of no job security, in fact 22% of you told us that this was the most important factor when considering a public sector job.
While the announcement of 400,000 job cuts by 2015 seems like a scarily big number (which it is if these figures are true), it’s always worth bearing in mind that the public sector employs around 6 million people in total so by far the majority will keep their jobs. The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) recently pointed out that the public sector will also have to fill around 2.1million jobs, which will be vacancies left when employees retire, get promoted or turn to different jobs in the public or private sector.
Myth 3 - Regimented working environment
Another myth doing the rounds is that the public sector is too regimented; however, the truth appears to be the complete opposite. How do we know? Because you told us in the survey that not only was it an interesting working environment but it also provided the most opportunities. From working on the frontline in the armed forces to being in a more supporting role for a larger service like the NHS, public sector jobs may require you to regularly use your initiative to help someone, making the work far from routinely regimented.
The public sector is changing and it is keen to adopt new management styles to mirror this change in mindset, so any work that does feel regimented is unlikely to last.
Myth 4 – You’re just a ‘jobs worth’
A similar myth is the existence of a ‘jobs worth’ mentality surrounding public sector workers. Far from being a ‘jobs worth’, you’re interacting with the public, helping and communicating with them and generally making a difference. In fact, our survey showed that you actually find it a rewarding career, where it’s not just a job, but making a difference.
Myth 5 - The government is an untrustworthy employer
They don’t reply to your letters, they never phone, and when they do get in touch you feel they’re only telling you what you want to hear – being in a working relationship with the government can be frustrating at times, and when the job and budget cuts were announced, it was only natural that people would want to step away from the government and take a break.
While it might seem a daunting time to have the government as your boss, it’s always worth remembering that just because the private sector has a different employer doesn’t mean it’s any better off.
Just like fire-breathing dragons and princesses trapped in tall castles in faraway lands, there are myths out there surrounding the public sector. You’ve just got to try and see past them to reach the happy ending.