You do realise that anyone can apply?

In the United Kingdown people have free will and the right to pursue whatever career they wish. Not everyone will have an equal chance of getting the job that they want because people will be limited to different extents by inherent ability, social class and means and of course the education that is made available to them. If you are following the growing demonisation of the Public Sector you would think that to be in the employ of the state you have to win some kind of lottery or you inherit your position through some kind of birthright.

The truth is that there are many reasons why people prefer to work in the private sector. I’d like to receive an honest answer from those working in the Private Sector about whether they fancy some of the key positions available in the public sector.

Hands up who would like to be a Police Officer? And I don’t mean, hands up who would like the right to retire at 50 on a decent pension (length of service dependant or course) because surely we would all hold our hands up to that. I mean, who really, deep down, would like to perform the role of a Police Officer? The long shift patterns, dealing with the very worst aspects of society, the social stigma that goes with the role and the fact that to attain any kind of position in the Police you must do your time on the beat.

Then you ask yourself: are you adequately qualified to perform the role? Are you fit enough, can you pass the physical aspects of the application process and then can you pass the lengthy role-play sessions and interviews. Do you have a degree, have you any experience – most likely gained whilst as an un-paid (or at the very best low-paid) and essentiallly powerless Community Support Officer – and can you deal, in a non-judgemental way, with people from every possible background?

Getting into the Police is not easy, but neither is it a random lottery in which people are selected irrespective of personal qualities. It is an application process and anyone can apply. You just might not want to.

Hands up who fancies being a teacher? And no, I don’t mean who fancies the summer off, a pension at 60/65 and short working days. I mean, who fancies spending most of their working life in the glare of 30 school kids, who they have to get to a certain level each year irrespective of the quality of kids that turn up. Who fancies spending much of their time at home marking, planning and worrying about constant observations, grading and inspections?

It is the easiest thing in the world to suggest that the Public Sector is one big gravy train full of incompetents living the high life just waiting to retire on a huge pension. But it isn’t true, at all. The average Public Sector pension is just £4,000 a year, for example. As for the suggestion that every position is filled by simpletons who couldn’t survive in the Private Sector, then why don’t the whingers apply? If working in the Public Sector is such an easy ride, why isn’t every single post advertised deluged with millions of applicants all desperate for their slice of the easy pie?

Could it be that not everyone wants to spend 4 years training to become a teacher. Not everyone wants to go back to college to complete an Access to Nursing course (1 or 2 years, unfunded) only to face huge competition for a very limited amount of Nursing degree places (which is a further 3 years if they do get a place) – a large number of Access to Nursing students will simply not be accepted onto a university course.

You will never become rich working in the public sector. You can in certain job roles become very comfortably well-off (Headteachers, deputy heads, senior police, senior civil servants etc) but these are a tiny tip at the top of an pyramid in which the vast majority of public sector workers occupy the lower base. Teachers, nurses, fireman, admin VAT advisors, tax workers, call centre workers and everyone else working in the public sector knows that their earnings will always be clearly finite and relevant to the role they perform, which in turn is governed by their qualifications.

I don’t think it is unfair to expect to live in a country in which teachers, nurses, fireman, police officers, social workers (and who wants the grief that they get for working in often impossible situations?) etc should not have to worry about being poor, either during their working life or in retirement.

And, if you still think it’s easy, then why don’t you get a job in the Public Sector? No one is stopping you, it is not an exclusive club (although it is becoming harder to get into thanks to media-driven government cuts), anyone can apply. You just have to be qualified, experienced and prepared to put up with all the flak that most of the jobs entail.

21 thoughts on “You do realise that anyone can apply?”

  1. Sad to see this site which is generally good at pointing out flaws in the media being so partisan. Media-driven public cuts? My arse

  2. Actually, in many instances it is a closed shop. Plenty of public sector positions, particularly the more senior they get, make public sector experience a pre-requisite (note, it does not have to be relevant experience, E.g. a college will employ an accountant from a council, but not one from a factory).

    But, that’s an aside.. of course you’re right.. public sector workers do great work, and it’s not easy, and the myths that are spread are unhelpful and divisive and merely serve to pitch low paid worker against low paid worker, whilst the real inequities in society are unaddressed. Of course, both sides in this ‘debate’ are as guilty as each other in this.

    For example… you quote the average public sector pension. I think your figure is wrong – it should be £5,600 (that’s per the TUC) and that figure has no context without the average length of service giving rise to it. However, it is true that most public sector workers draw modest pensions – no matter what the detractors would have us believe. But.. it would cost a private sector worker almost £200,000 to ‘buy’ a comparable pension – so you shouldn’t underplay the true value.

    Finally, whilst it’s quite right that (notwithstanding my opening point) public sector jobs are open to us all.. the same is true of the fat-cat private sector jobs that are so-often vilified.. but it’s not that simple. Further, when those on the right blithely suggest that everyone on benefits should ‘just get a job like I did’, others will rightly point out that there aren’t jobs for everyone… well that’s true here as well. Whilst we can all apply to work in the public sector, we can’t all get the job.. and whilst some can make a reasoned choice as to where they want to work, you must accept that most people can’t really be so choosy.

  3. I have a retired firefighter for a father and some of the bullshit I have seen spouted about the fire service today has really wound me up. If it’s that easy, why don’t you go risk your life in a burning building, or cut beheaded bodies out of a car? (True story)

    My dad had to take early retirement due to asthma. Early retirement is not uncommon and the pension is not very good.

    One of my teacher friends works 7am – 7pm.

    The strikes have my full support.

  4. “teachers, nurses, fireman, police officers, social workers (and who wants the grief that they get for working in often impossible situations?) etc ”

    I work in the private sector, as an SQL Administrator. I am subject to a variety of laws that limit my earnings, get no bonuses to my pension and no paid holiday.

    A friend of mine works in the public sector, doing the same. They get pensions, holidays, bonuses and other benefits. Oh, and slightly better paid.

    We are, pretty much at the same level. So why the hell does he get paid more than me?

    This is where the resentment comes from. Not to Nurses, teachers etc, but the support staff and the like. The ones who are seen to be riding the coatails of those who serve the public good.

  5. Who wants to work in a call centre? Who wants to work in a shop? Who wants to work in a factory on unsociable shifts, or drive a lorry or build your house, or unblock your toilets, or stock your shelves, or design and make all the things you need every day on wages that have no guaranteed rise ever and with no pension, less well-trained HR and far less job security?

    There is no moral hierarchy of jobs – your message cuts both ways – if you work in the public sector it’s because you *chose* to – in as much as any of us get to choose how we earn a living….

    I personally object strongly to service cuts – but lower pensions is something we’re *all* just going to have to live with

  6. Lee, I’m not saying that your figures are wrong about the £5,600pa average pension and the £200,000 cost of a comparable pension from the private sector.
    But if they are correct then that is an astonishing indictment of the pensions industry. Pay in £200K and get out £5.6K per year? Sod that. You’d need to live for 35 years past retirement age to get any kind of return on that investment. You’d do better to just stuff tenners under your mattress.

  7. Marc Smith’s comment above hints at an important point that the government seems to have forgotten, and which it hopes is lost on the British public. Much is made in political circles of how the private sector is comparatively worse off when it comes to pensions (the government having lost the argument now on the affordability of public sector pensions) and that private sector employees should not pay (in taxes)to support public sector workers. But, whilst private sector workers might feel justified in swallowing the government argument that they have no responsibility for funding a pension for a local government executive, it becomes much less tenable (and looks like infantile, jealous bickering) to suggest that the public should not fund the pensions of frontline public workers (e.g. nurses or teachers) who sacrifice much of their lives providing a valuable service to the community in near-impossible conditions. Public Service – clue’s in the name. Shame my own blog on this point wasn’t quite as succinct!

  8. “I work in the private sector, as an SQL Administrator. I am subject to a variety of laws that limit my earnings, get no bonuses to my pension and no paid holiday.”

    You’re legally entitled to 28 days of paid holiday each year and there are no laws that limit your earnings.

    Obviously the situation with paid leave is different if you’re a freelancer, but that’s why freelance day rates are higher than those offered to contract staff.

  9. “We are, pretty much at the same level. So why the hell does he get paid more than me?”

    Erm, could it be because you have different employers, with yours being particularly shit, perhaps? Your mate has better terms and conditions than you so the way to resolve it… is to drag him down to your level?

    Rather than being resentful, why not actually do something about it, like ask for a pay rise, join a union, or work in the public sector?

  10. I work in the public sector myself, for a local authority. Funnily enough only this morning I was talking about this very issue. According to the media and the ConDems public sector workers are so alien race who drop out of the sky and take up posts in City Councils up and down the land. Of course in reality the local authority in most cities is also, generally, the largest employee in that City. And do you know what we are just normal people who live in the locality, pay taxes, including Council Tax and most of (the vast majority) us earn under £20k a year (I earn under 17K). So if life is just so darn rosy in the public sector why don’t people apply for jobs with their local city council, after all the public sector is pretty scrupelous about advertising jobs (unlike the private sector), just apply for one and live the life of luxury which can see you earning 17k and getting a pension that pays as much as £4k a year. There are millions of people who work in the public sector, yet if you read the media (both the right wing and so called “liberal”) you would think that we are not real people, we contribute no taxes, we do not spend any money in shops and restaurants, bars, we just live on a large island where we run round burning £50 notes to light our Cuban cigars.

  11. Marc Smith,

    Your post is a classic example of the type of arguament that is trotted out on a regular basis. “Boo, hoo, hoo, someone is getting something that I am not, life is so unfair, they get a pension and a holiday, I don’t so I don’t want them to either.” This is just what the government want, to divide public and private sector worker and instead of private sector workers saying it is good that those in the public sector get a pesnion (however paltry), we should also have some provision, it always turns into a mean spiritied rant that why should they get it if we don’t. Divide and rule, nothing ever changes.

  12. How do you not get *any* paid holiday, Marc? The law gives a minimum of 25 days for everyone, regardless of sector.

    I don’t think it’s fair to malign the support staff either. It takes more than teachers to run a public sector. We’re always going to need IT professionals, receptionists and so on in the public sector. They don’t get paid for doing nothing, you know.

    We should probably stop being mad at the public sector workers for getting paid “too much” and think that private sector workers are underpaid.

  13. “The average Public Sector pension is just £4,000 a year”

    Arg! This figure is being quoted everywhere. This is a simple average i.e. total paid out divided by the number of claimants. This includes my mother who worked as a receptionist in the civil service for six months in the 1970s. She accumulated a pension that is now worth about £200 a year. There are millions of people who have worked for the public sector for short periods and this TOTALLY skews this figure.

  14. The trouble with anecdotal evidence is that it’ll only sample a small selection – that which is in your personal experience. For example, I have plenty of anecdotal evidence that is the complete opposite of Marc’s public versus private example.

    I’ve worked in both private and public sector. My wages have been crap in both, my pension is miserable either way. I have two post-graduate degrees and the other common myth – that graduates waltz into careers averaging £30,000 is bollocks. The only graduates I know who are earning that have EARNED it – ie, they started at the bottom and worked their way up the ladder. That’s both private and public sector.

    I know private sector workers on brilliant pensions, with brilliant benefit schemes, holidays, cars, you name it. I know public sector workers who can only dream of the same. And I know the reverse. In every single case, these people have got to where they are through hard graft.

    I have seen horrendous waste and inefficiency in the public sector – and guess what? I’ve seen exactly the same problem in the private sector, too. I’ve seen brilliant efficiencies and savings instigated by the public sector, and likewise by the private.

    The government’s biggest myth of all is that there’s a stark dividing line between the private and public sectors where all the good is one side and all the bad is on the other. It’s not. It’s never been like that, it never will be. There’s good and bad in both and we should be working together to do exactly what Hutton advised – raise standards for everyone and not race each other to the bottom of the pile.

  15. That should be ‘fire fighters’ not ‘fireman’ surely? PC notwithstanding, there’s surely more than one of them working for the fire service or have the cuts got really out of hand?

  16. Oh, and those who moan about the private sector having inferior job ‘perks’, leave entitlements, pensions etc. Two things – just because your sector or your job is low paid, no pension, two days holiday leave per decade, doesn’t mean ALL private sector jobs are like that.
    And maybe, just maybe, the private sector jobs which do have good pay and conditions, do so because they have been unionised effectively?

    Just a thought.

  17. @Marc Smith:
    I’m an SQL Administrator in the private sector too, on crap pay and I don’t see why you want this race to the bottom.

    If someone else can get a good wage from the public sector for doing the same job, then good luck to them.

    At the very least it gives me hope that I can get into that line of work some time, rather than being stuck in a private sector where it seems you can only make big earnings by being in sales.

  18. “I work in the private sector, as an SQL Administrator. I am subject to a variety of laws that limit my earnings, get no bonuses to my pension and no paid holiday.”

    Er, what laws limit your earnings?

  19. I saw the figures one guy on the picketline was complaining he was having to now pay for his pension – I’ll swap with him any time.

    I work in the third sector, so I get worse pay than public or private, do lots of unpaid overtime, I get fairly duff pension – think a lowish private sector one. But I chose this. And since I work not ‘on the front lines’ but raising the money to fund the front line staff I get considered to be an ‘overhead’, undesirable and as part of the evil ‘admin’ cost. SO much for ‘you don’t do this for the money, but to change people’s lives.

    So sod it, I am leaving the sector and going after a job in the oil industry.

    I chose this sector, I chose my job and now I’m choosing to get a different one. If you’re not happy with your lot – public private whatever, choose to do something else.

  20. In general private sector pensions are supported by some sort of fund. One issue with many public sector pensions is that they are funded out of current income, which means the increased contributions are simply a form of tax – out will be future employees and tax payers that bear the actual cost of payments.

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