Private sector workers still gloomier

A new survey suggests civil servants enjoy their jobs more than private sector workers. Which is somewhat contrary to expectations...

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 02 Jun 2011
Given that they’re currently facing at best wage freezes, and at worst mass redundancies, you’d have thought public sector workers would be a pretty miserable bunch at the moment. But a survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has suggested that they actually enjoy their jobs more than those of us toiling away in the private sector. Apparently, while overall job satisfaction has fallen to its lowest level since 2009 - dropping five points to +34 in the last three months - the figure for the public sector was, oddly, five points higher than the equivalent figure for the private sector (+38 compared to +33). Are they just grateful they haven't been sacked already?

It's not that public sector workers are refusing to face up to the harsh reality of their situation: almost a third of public sector workers say it’s ‘likely’ they’ll lose their jobs, compared to 19% of private sector employees (which still sounds alarmingly high to us). And a decidedly pessimistic 58% expect their organisation to start making redundancies in the next six months, compared to a relatively small 10% of private sector workers.

But despite the uncertainty surrounding their futures, civil servants seem to be a loyal bunch: according to the survey, while the number of staff looking for a new job has increased from 19% to 24% this quarter, public sector workers are the least likely to be surfing the job boards. Though some would argue that it's time they did...

So why this such devotion from the public sector? The CIPD points to a ‘fixed grin effect’, i.e. as redundancies happen all around them, those who are left are just grateful for what they’ve got. That, or they’re taking their cue from the orchestra on the Titanic, and playing on, even as the waves lap around their feet. Either way, it seems that the private sector still has a way to go.

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