Perspective on salaries

Posted on April 3, 2008 in Debates, Governance Debates – comment/editorial – Perspective on salaries
April 03, 2008

There has been a media foofaraw this week over the list of public sector workers (42,527) making more than $100,000. The numbers need to be put into some perspective.

First of all, the annual salary disclosure list covers the “broader public sector” in Ontario, not just the civil servants working directly for the provincial government. Included on the list are employees of municipalities, hospitals, school boards, public utilities, universities and colleges – almost 1 million people in all. So the 42,527 making more than $100,000 represent barely 4 per cent of the total.

For comparison, consider that in 2005 (the last year for which figures are available), some 410,840 Ontarians – or 4.6 per cent of total filers – reported incomes in excess of $100,000 in their tax returns.

Second, with inflation $100,000 isn’t what it used to be when the disclosure bar was set at that level in 1996. To maintain the same purchasing power today would require a salary of $125,000. If the bar were raised to that level, some 27,152 employees would fall off the list.

Among those falling off would be nurses, police officers, firefighters, power plant workers and TTC drivers – most of whom lifted their pay over $100,000 (but below $125,000) by working overtime.

What a closer look at the salary disclosure list suggests, then, is that working in the public sector is hardly a “winning lottery ticket,” as the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has declared. Nor is it a sign of “a government that is clearly living high on the hog,” as the opposition Conservatives have remarked. Rather, it shows public sector salaries are not really out of line.

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