Government Workers Reaping More Benefits than Private Industry Employees

According to the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, two-thirds of private industry and state and local government workers (defined in the survey as civilian workers) had access to retirement benefits and nearly three-quarters to medical care in March 2008. Access and participation in retirement and medical care benefits were greater in state and local government than in private industry.

The data is from the National Compensation Survey, and included the following highlights:

  • Sixty-one percent of private industry employees had access to paid retirement benefits, compared with 89 percent of state and local government employees. Eighty-six percent of government employees participated in a retirement plan, significantly greater than the approximately half of private industry workers.
  • Medical care benefits were available to 71 percent of private industry workers, compared with 87 percent among government workers. About half of private industry workers participated in a plan, less than the nearly three-quarters of government workers.
  • Employers paid 83 percent of the cost of premiums for single coverage and 71 percent of the cost for family coverage for workers participating in employer-sponsored medical plans. Employer share for single coverage was greater in state and local government (90 percent) than in private industry (81 percent). For family coverage, the employer share of premiums was similar for private industry and government, 71 and 73 percent, respectively.
  • Virtually all full-time employees in state and local government had access to retirement and medical benefits: 99 and 98 percent, respectively. In private industry, only 71 percent of full-time workers had access to retirement benefits and 85 percent to medical care.

Incidence of employee benefits varied by employer and employee characteristics; patterns varied between private industry and state and local government. For example, while access to employee benefits showed substantial variation by full- and part-time status in all establishments, the differences, except for holidays and vacations, were greater in state and local government than in private industry, where occupational group and establishment size played a greater role. Service occupations in private industry had significantly lower rates of access to major benefits than workers in management, professional, and related occupations, whereas in state and local government the differences between these two groups were not as large.

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