"How does the compensation of federal civilian employees compare with that of employees in the private sector?" is a question that the Congressional Budget Office once asked and answered, finding that the combined cash income and benefits that Uncle Sam's employees are paid is a lot more generous than what their peers in the private sector earn, even after controlling for factors like education, years of experience and job descriptions.
But we wondered how does the productivity of federal civilian employees compare with that of employees in the private sector? After all, if a civilian employee of the U.S. federal government is more productive than their similarly educated and experienced peer doing the same or similar job in the private sector, that difference could well justify their more generous compensation. If everything else is equal, it makes sense that a person who is more economically productive in doing a job would be compensated more than a less productive person doing the same work.
Thanks to a natural experiment, we're about to find out just how productive federal bureaucrats really are with respect to their direct peers in the private sector!
This summer, as part of the cost-cutting measures related to the budget sequester required by the Budget Control Act of 2011, President Obama acted to discontinue the operations of the Department of Labor's International Labor Comparisons (ILC) program, which converts the economic statistics produced by other nations' governments to adhere to U.S. standards and definitions, which allows for direct apples-to-apples comparisons to be made between the nations' economic data. Here's the announcement of the program's elimination that appeared in the Federal Register on 25 June 2013:
The International Labor Comparisons (ILC) program adjusted foreign data to a common framework of concepts, definitions, and classifications to facilitate data comparisons between the United States and other countries. ILC data were used to assess United States economic performance relative to other countries, as well as to evaluate the competitive position of the United States in international markets.
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