Read my article in Policy Options here. Also, here's the longer essay here, in the Canadian Parliamentary Review. What do you think?...
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Kevin Page's misleading statistics
This, my friends, is why the proper use of statistics is important:
I’ve surveyed my colleagues and a few other friends who work in the Public Service. We’re pretty sure we’re not seeing about $70,000 from what Kevin Page says we should be.
But what is Page really saying? He’s saying the average public servant makes that much. Here’s his math:
$43.8 Billion / 375,500 = $116,644
Federal government’s human resources budget / number of federal employees = $114,100
(Page’s calculations also include the cost savings of early severance payouts, resulting in the $2544 difference)
Simple, right? Wrong!
Such is the easily misleading opportunity presented when looking for an average rather than the mode. The mode, in simple statistics, is the number which occurs most frequently. In other words, what Page should be presenting is what most public servants cost taxpayers, which should be significantly less than $114,100 per year.
Let’s say, for argument’s sake, most public servants make $60,000 per year. Even adding in pensions, medical and dental coverage, and other minor human resources expenditures, it’s incredibly unlikely that most employees are costing Canadians upwards of six figures per year.
Page's suggestion is a deliberate attempt to lump in an EX-05 (making $198,300) with an AS-01 (making $30,375). The average between these two people is $114,338, but knowing this neither sufficiently accounts for the person making $200,000 nor the entry-level employee making 15% of that.
All employees do not cost the same – not even close. What’s probably happening here is the top 20% of earners accounting for over $300,000 in expenditures each, with the vast majority certainly not benefiting or raking in over $114,000 per year.
Page, an educated individual, certainly knows this. But his office’s pursuit for outrageous attention-grabbing headlines is apparently more important than providing accurate, relevant data.