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Public Sector Pay Gaps and Skill Levels: a Cross-Country Comparison


  • Paolo Ghinetti
  • Claudio Lucifora

    () (SEMEQ Department - Faculty of Economics - University of Eastern Piedmont)


In this study, we investigate public-private pay determination using French, British and Italian micro data from the 2001 ECHP. We document that the distribution of wages is very different between public and private workers. As a result, the public pay premium varies as one moves up or down in the wage distribution. In France, Great Britain and Italy the public sector wage premium is higher for low skilled public sector workers, whilst the opposite happens for high skilled workers. These effects are more pronounced in the service sector. Additional results suggest that if a worker with certain characteristics was exogenously moved from the public to the private sector, he suffered a welfare (wage) loss, which is higher for the low skilled, who are the most protected in the public sector. In the light of the privatisation process of formerly public service, this process may in general impose some cost to involved public employees. Moreover, such costs are decreasing with the level of wages. Finally, the magnitude of these costs depend on the country considered, and, hence on the associated institutional setting.

Suggested Citation

  • Paolo Ghinetti & Claudio Lucifora, 2008. "Public Sector Pay Gaps and Skill Levels: a Cross-Country Comparison," Working Papers 118, SEMEQ Department - Faculty of Economics - University of Eastern Piedmont.
  • Handle: RePEc:upo:upopwp:118

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Carlo Dell'Aringa & Claudio Lucifora & Federica Origo, 2007. "Public Sector Pay And Regional Competitiveness. A First Look At Regional Public-Private Wage Differentials In Italy," Manchester School, University of Manchester, vol. 75(4), pages 445-478, July.
    2. Yann Algan & Pierre Cahuc & André Zylberberg, 2002. "Public employment and labour market performance," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 17(34), pages 7-66, April.
    3. Claudio Lucifora & Dominique Meurs, 2006. "The Public Sector Pay Gap In France, Great Britain And Italy," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 52(1), pages 43-59, March.
    4. Alan S. Blinder, 1973. "Wage Discrimination: Reduced Form and Structural Estimates," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 8(4), pages 436-455.
    5. Stephen Nickell & Glenda Quintini, 2003. "Nominal wage rigidity and the rate of inflation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(490), pages 762-781, October.
    6. Blaise Melly, 2005. "Public-private sector wage differentials in Germany: Evidence from quantile regression," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 30(2), pages 505-520, September.
    7. Blackaby, D. H. & Murphy, P. D. & O'Leary, N. C., 1999. "The payment of public sector workers in the UK: reconciliation with North American findings," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 239-243, November.
    8. Richard Disney & Amanda Gosling, 1998. "Does it pay to work in the public sector?," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 19(4), pages 347-374, November.
    9. Koenker, Roger W & Bassett, Gilbert, Jr, 1978. "Regression Quantiles," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(1), pages 33-50, January.
    10. James M. Poterba & Kim S. Rueben, 1994. "The Distribution of Public Sector Wage Premia: New Evidence Using Quantile Regression Methods," NBER Working Papers 4734, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. José Mata & José A. F. Machado, 2005. "Counterfactual decomposition of changes in wage distributions using quantile regression," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 20(4), pages 445-465.
    12. Elliott, R. F. & Bender, K. A., "undated". "Relative Earnings in the UK Public sector: The Impact of Pay Reform on Pay Structure," Working Papers 98-04, Department of Economics, University of Aberdeen.
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    Cited by:

    1. Dickson, Matt & Postel-Vinay, Fabien & Turon, Hélène, 2014. "The lifetime earnings premium in the public sector: The view from Europe," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(C), pages 141-161.
    2. Tepe, Markus, 2010. "The effect of reciprocal motives, personality traits and wage differnences on public employee's job satisfaction," TranState Working Papers 131, University of Bremen, Collaborative Research Center 597: Transformations of the State.

    More about this item


    Wage differentials; Public sector; Quantile regression;

    JEL classification:

    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J45 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Public Sector Labor Markets
    • C14 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Semiparametric and Nonparametric Methods: General

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