Page last updated at 13:21 GMT, Friday, 5 March 2010

Where is it better to work - the public or private sector?

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It's all about money or shorter hours - isn't it? There are many assumptions made about why people work in the public or private sector, but what's the reality when two workers compare their jobs?

Free private health care versus more holiday, job security versus a yearly bonus. Just some of the things you may have to weigh up when deciding to take a job in the private or public sector - right?

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Long hours in the private sector but big rewards?

Historically, both have been viewed in specific ways. Public sector workers - like council workers, NHS staff, nurses, police officers and teachers - are generally assumed to have traded lower wages for job security, more holiday and generous pensions. Those in the private sector are perceived to work longer hours and be at the mercy of market forces, but get fatter pay cheques and bonuses.

Job security in the public sector is one assumption that can definitely be questioned in today's economic climate, with all political parties committed to cuts in public services. But are any of the others actually right?

Most types of jobs exist in each sector, but you don't get a chance to work in both and compare what's better and what's not. We asked two IT workers, one employed by a council and the other by a private company, to see how their jobs measure up.

While no two posts are ever exactly the same, they are in very similar roles and have been doing their jobs for very similar lengths of time. So when you get down to details, who has the best deal - and would they swap sectors?

PRIVATE V PUBLIC
picture of private sector
THE WORKER
Private: Oliver Hunter, 39, from Towcester, Northamptonshire Public: John (not real name), 40, from London
THE JOB
Senior Analyst Programmer for High Street retailer for four years, based in Milton Keynes Senior Analyst Programmer Support Officer for a council for five years, based in London
CORE HOURS
35 hours a week 36 hours a week
SALARY
35k plus overtime 30k - 35k
HOLIDAY
picture of public sector picture of private sector
27 days a year 31 days a year
OVERTIME
On 24-hour call for one week in four. Nine hours pay for just being on call and time-and-a-half if called out during the week and double time on a Sunday Yes, unofficial and unpaid
COMPANY PENSION
Yes, a final salary scheme and employer pays double my contributions Yes, not final salary scheme but employer pays in 19.5% of my salary
ANNUAL BONUS
picture of private sector picture of public sector
Up to 6% of salary - 4% personal performance and 2% company performance No
EXTRA STAFF BENEFITS
Healthcare discounts and money-saving offers at selected retailers and entertainment venues None
UNION MEMBERSHIP
No, none available Yes
BEST BIT OF JOB
Pay and the people I work with Giving back to the community in some way
PUBLIC PERCEPTION OF JOB
It's boring and we're geeks Public and politicians have low opinion of public sector
WOULD YOU WORK IN OTHER SECTOR
Never, doesn't pay enough Increasingly thinking of it, but believe the work I do has a positive impact on the public, however indirectly


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