The public service ethos is alive and well with younger workers in the
public sector feeling particularly strongly that their jobs are useful to
society. The findings are contained in ‘Is there still a public service
ethos?’ by Peter John and Mark Johnson, in ‘British Social Attitudes: the
24th Report’, published today by NatCen.
The report includes evidence that the motivations for working among public
sector employees are very different from those found in private sector
workers. Among employees aged under 35, two-thirds see their work as
useful, more than four times the number of private sector workers in the
same age group who feel that way.
Overall the study finds workers in the public sector are twice as likely as
those in private business to say it is important to them that their jobs
are useful to society. They are also more likely to say that it is very
important that their job allows them to help other people and they are less
likely than private sector workers to say a high income is very important
to them. The results also show the difference between public and private
sector employees has widened in the last ten years and much of that change
happened among younger staff.
Public sector workers also have slightly higher levels of job satisfaction.
Forty-two per cent of them are satisfied compared with 35 per cent of their
private sector counterparts. The highest levels of job satisfaction are
found among employees with an altruistic approach to work, irrespective of
which sector they are in.
Peter John, co-author of the report, said, “The public service ethos seems
to have increased over the last decade, despite changes in management and
procedures. It isn’t easy to identify the reasons for this but it is clear
that there is something special about the young people entering public
service today.” He believed it was possible that as the public and private
sectors became more alike the choice of careers was increasingly about
values, so the public sector was attracting only those who are
already committed to it.