The Big Benefit Base

A recent survey finds that state and local employees have certain compensatory advantages.
by | December 2007

Conventional wisdom says that, while private-sector employees earn larger salaries than their public-sector counterparts, governments make up some of the difference with superior benefits. For once, conventional wisdom is right.

That, anyway, is what a new survey from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, a nonprofit member association, suggests. By many measures, the U.S. public employers sampled--almost all of which represented state and local government--provide more generous health benefits than their corporate counterparts. On average, public- sector deductibles are lower and employees pay a lower share of premiums.

Governments also give out more paid holidays than corporations. The difference is biggest for Martin Luther King Jr. Day (87 percent versus 32 percent), Presidents' Day (67 percent versus 33 percent) and Columbus Day (36 percent versus 9 percent).

As to long-term disability coverage, however, public employees don't do nearly so well: Nearly 89 percent of corporations offer coverage; only around 67 percent of public employers do.

That generosity is possible only through spending. The survey found that a large majority of public employers commit more than 30 percent of their payroll dollars to benefits.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman | Former Staff Writer |