Gov Career

By Phil Piemonte

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And the beat goes on

Here we go again: A new survey says two-thirds of American adults think private-sector workers work harder than government workers.

According to a Rasmussen national phone survey conducted April 30-May 1, 68 percent of American adults think employees in the private sector work harder than government employees do.

Nine percent of respondents in the survey (perhaps government workers themselves?) feel government employees work harder. Twenty-three percent are not sure.

What's up with this persistent perception that government employees don't work as hard as private-sector workers? Is it the result of the constant criticism of feds—and the federal government at large—propagated by certain lawmakers and policy wonks in recent years? Is it the result of bad PR? Is it private-sector employees' envy of the kinds of benefits that a only dwindling number of private-sector employees enjoy?

Or is it a lot simpler than that?

Back up a minute. First, how many government workers are out there?

According to preliminary numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics released earlier this month, of 135 million "employees on nonfarm payrolls," about 113 million worked in the private sector in April. Not quite 22 million worked in state, local and federal government.

So, just using those numbers (and forgetting about unemployed workers), it seems reasonable to assume that more than four out of five U.S. workers are employed in the private sector.

Now look at the survey.

If the 1,000-person pool used for this survey was selected properly, we might generally expect that there's a four out of five chance that an adult who answers the phone will be a private-sector worker if that person is employed—or is perhaps the spouse of a private-sector worker, or a retired private-sector worker, or an out-of-work private-sector worker, etc.

So if that person is asked the question (as all the respondents were): "Who works harder, government workers or workers in the private sector?"—what response would one expect?

Would you expect a private-sector worker/spouse/retiree to say: "Government workers work harder." ?


Of course 68 percent of American adults are going to say employees in the private sector work harder than government employees workers do.

That's because more than 68 percent of the people out there are, or were, or are related to private-sector workers. And because people working in the private-sector are no more eager to diss their own work efforts than are people in government.

Who works harder? Human nature would seem to dictate the answer: "Me, that's who."

Perhaps the real question is: What's the value in asking the question in the first place?

Posted by Phil Piemonte on May 07, 2013 at 4:02 PM

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