The alternative to highly paid bureaucrats is lowly paid bureaucrats. Lowly paid bureaucrats are far far worse than highly paid ones. Here are three resons why:
- Lack of talent – why work for Government when you can get more money working in the private sector? The talented leave, the not so talented stay.
- Corruption – if you can’t make ends meet on your Government salary then there are plenty of other ways earn some cash. This happens all over the world, and we don’t want that in NZ.
- Lack of respect and care – if your employer cannot pay you enough money, then you’ll start to get demotivated. This in turn leads to a punch the time-card approach to work and we all suffer from the resulting lower service.
So ‘d far rather keep highly paid public servants.
However – perhaps the survey aproach is flawed:
The flaw in the survey is probably the same as the flaw when looking at average salaries/living costs for occupations in big cities (e.g. NYC) versus small towns where the smallness of the salary gap doesn’t explain the huge difference in living costs.
Where the difference lies is that in big cities and in the private sector you get more opportunities for career advancement – you get promoted more quickly.
I would posit that the problem here isn’t highly paid Government workers, but the lack of highly paid private sector jobs. And where are those highly paid private sector jobs? They don’t exist – which is why so many Kiwis head offshore to move their careers forward. New Zealand offers excellent basic education, excellent early career experience but lousy mid and later career experience. The Government sector is one of the few places where you can have decent responsibility and work that is meaningful for those with advanced qualifications and experience. Even so – those Government salaries are struggling to attract back Kiwi talent from offshore – they are ludicrously low in the Western World’s economy.
So pay the Government folk decent money, but here are some caveats:
a: Aggressive performance management – You can’t have a secure job highly paid job if your performance doesn’t match up. People need to be performance managed to help them stay on top of the game, or fired if required. No tenure please.
b: Encourage Sector switching – The salaries in the public sector may be “better”, so we should be encouraging and pushing for people that actively switch between public and private sectors. That way we will get more rounded people, but also the paper pushers will benefit from injections of private sector rigour, and the private sector will benefit by understanding and working with the wheels of Government..
c: Periodic restructuring – It’s a fact of corporate business that a periodic reshuffling of the deck is required to keep thngs fresh. This may take many different forms, but the outcome is generally new leaders, new structures and a much leaner organisation. It means people will lose jobs, young turks get promoted and, yes, great uncertainty and pain. However the short term pain results in longer term benefit as the organisation is able to move to the next level. Ossification is the enemy, and Government can learn from the private sector and restructure early and often.