Public servants ‘gaming the system’ — take twice as many sick days as private sector workers: report

While the data is correct, the interpretation that most people ‘game the system’ is more anecdotal than evidence-based (some clearly do of course).

While I support changes that reduce such abuse, I would want to preserve provisions for sick day banking in cases of catastrophic illness (e.g., cancer):

And the article is silent on Canada’s public servants take up to twice the number of sick days a year as private sector workers do, because of different motivations, work cultures and rules that encourage “gaming the system,” says a new report by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.

Phillip Cross, Statistics Canada’s former chief economic analyst, concludes in the report that the existing sick-leave regime in the federal government should be overhauled because attitudes and cultural practices “rather than biology and medicine” are at the root of the problem.

Cross, who made his name as a straight-shooting analyst, said a “sickness in the system” accounts for why public servants claim 10.5 days a year for illness while private sector employees average 6.4 days. The overall public sector – including education and health care workers – is close to the federal average at 10.6 days a year.

He said differences between the sectors are so significant that working in the public sector itself is a determinant of sick-leave use, rather than exposure to illness or injury.

‘I don’t want to sound like private sector workers are saints and public sector are sinners’

“I don’t want to sound like private sector workers are saints and public sector are sinners. If they had the same opportunity to game the system, I think it is human nature to take advantage of it, and the opportunities for gaming are much easier in the federal government,” said Cross.

“The rules allow people who want to work as little as possible to succeed. Is it the system or the individual? It’s a bit of both.”

The study was based on data from Statistics Canada’s labour force survey, which includes all full-time employees other than the self-employed. The survey’s finding of federal employees taking 10.5 days a year is in line with the 10.3 days that a Parliamentary Budget Office report found several years ago.

Cross’s study found the gap between the private and public sectors has also been widening. Public servants took an average of 7.2 days off in 1987 – including federal employees – compared to 10.6 days today. Most of that increase came after 1995. At the same time, private sector employees take 6.4 days, the same as they did 27 years ago.

Source: Public servants ‘gaming the system’ — take twice as many sick days as private sector workers: report

Don’t beat up Statscan for one data error – Cross

More on StatsCan from Phillip Cross, former chief economic analyst. Worth reading for some of the history and how the agency reacted to previous cuts:

People should get agitated about Statscan over substantive issues. Wring your hands that the CPI over-states price changes over long periods. Write your MP complaining that the Labour Force Survey doesn’t follow the U.S. practice and exclude 15 year olds. Take to the barricades that for an energy superpower like Canada, measuring energy exports has become a monthly adventure, routinely revised by $1-billion a month. But don’t use the July employment incident to evaluate how the statistical system is functioning overall. They messed up one data point in one series. Big deal. Anyone who lets one data point affect their view of the economy should not be doing analysis. Move along folks, nothing to see here.

Don’t beat up Statscan for one data error – The Globe and Mail.