The Daily Mail on Thursday used data on public sector pay to deride Jeremy Corbyn’s vow to challenge inequality as “Marxist fantasy” which failed to reflect the facts.
“Listening to Jeremy Corbyn voters might think... if only the government were more compassionate, it could raise limitless billions to spend on cruelly underpaid public sector workers,” the Mail thundered in a comment piece. “The facts tell a dramatically different story.”
The paper went on to argue that public sector workers earned 13 percent more than those working in the private sector, citing Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) research.
But the statistician who compiled the IFS study has said the Mail’s interpretation of it was “misleading”.
IFS Senior Research Economist Jonathan Cribb told HuffPost UK that the Mail’s assertion, also carried in full in a 600-word report, didn’t quite reflect the full truth.
″That is misleading to the extent that it doesn’t represent what a person with a similar set of skills can get in the private sector,” he said.
“If you use data on the characteristics of workers in the two sectors, so that you are essentially comparing like-for-like, fundamentally you end up with a not very big difference in pay between the public and private sectors.”
Depending on the methodology, the difference in pay between the two sectors is more likely to be around three percent, Cribb said.
Comparing like-for-like, you end up with a not very big difference in pay
And this can switch completely when comparing high-paid and high-skilled public sector workers, who are likely to earn less than their private sector counterparts.
Disparities change too depending on location. “There’s also big differences across the country,” Cribb said. “Public sector workers in the South East are not well paid compared to their private sector counterparts, but they are when we look at Belfast or Wales.”
One of the genuine areas of real difference between the public and private sectors is within pension provision - where state offers tend to outstrip their private counterparts.
Yet this gap has narrowed since 2010, Cribb said. “Reforms to public sector pensions and automatic enrolment for private sector pensions have had an effect,” he added.
The Mail carried a caveat to reflect the lack of like-for-like comparison within the report, but the comment piece had no such explanation.
The Daily Mail has been approached for comment.