Setting the record straight on public sector salaries

The Leader of the Opposition has claimed that upon becoming Prime Minister he would be restoring the dignity of public sector workers, who he claims have been left abandoned by successive Labour administrations. TheJournal.mt has looked at the salary scales published with each Budget speech since Malta joined the EU in order to compare how public sector workers fared along the years.

Our exercise focused on 7 different public sector workers, ranging from a police constable to a superintendent in the police force. The 7 selected workers range across the security forces, the education sector, public health and social services.

We have divided the period into two: 2005 to 2013, and 2013 to 2021. In the table below, we present the basic salary in Euro, together with how this salary compares with the basic salary for the average workers as found in the Labour Force Survey.

As one would expect, salaries grew consistently throughout both periods, but the post-2013 acceleration is particularly noteworthy. Taking, for instance a staff nurse with a diploma. The salary of an entry-level staff nurse rose by €2,844 in the eight years leading to 2013. In the following eight years it rose by €3,442, which is nearly a quarter higher.

As one would expect, salaries grew consistently throughout both periods, but the post-2013 acceleration is particularly noteworthy.

More importantly, between 2005 and 2013, the salary of an entry-level staff nurse slipped down in terms of relativity with the average wage. From earning the equivalent of 94% of the average wage in 2005, it fell to 92% in 2013, meaning that nurses were granted increases that lagged those in the rest of the economy. On the contrary, between 2013 and 2021, an entry-level staff nurse went from earning 92% of the average wage to earning 96%. Staff nurses not only recovered all the ground lost between 2005 and 2013, but also improved.

The same trends can be seen for the other 6 public sector roles. Between 2005 and 2013, all roles lost relativity with the average wage, which was then not just restored between 2013 and 2021 but significantly exceeded.

Let’s focus now on an Assistant Head of a school. From earning the equivalent of 127% of the average wage in 2013, an Assistant Head now earns 141% of the average wage. An entry-level social worker was granted increases of €3,839 between 2005 and 2013, as against a rise of €4,600 between 2013 and 2021. This marks a20% higher increase.

This exercise is limited to basic salaries, and does not include recent collective agreements that have also boosted allowances and other working conditions.

Besides looking at relativity to the average wage across the economy, TheJournal.mt also analysed how the salary increases in percentage terms across the 7 roles compare with the inflation experienced during these two periods. The rise in the Retail Price Index between 2005 and 2013 was about twice that observed since 2013. As a result, when one adjusts the rise in wages for inflation, it becomes evident that the purchasing power of these 7 roles changed substantially.

An entry-level teacher saw a 10.6% rise in the purchasing power of their wage between 2005 and 2013. By contrast,between 2013 and 2021 the same role experienced a rise of 18.7%. Similarly, the purchasing power of a police constable on a starting wage had risen by 8.3% pre-2013, as against 17.9% post-2013. Thus, on average, the improvement in purchasing power was twice that previously observed.

These numbers show a different picture than the one presented by the Leader of the Opposition on the public sector.

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