Public sector employees were paid on average between 7.7% and 8.7% more than private sector employees last year.

This is according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, based on figures collected in the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings and the Labour Force Survey.

The survey reveals the public sector is made up of a higher proportion of higher skilled jobs – widening over the last decade as lower skilled jobs have been outsourced from the public to the private sector. The public sector workforce also contains more people with a degree or an equivalent qualification; 40% in 2011, compared with 25% in the private sector.

It also points out that the public sector consists of a higher proportion of older employees and earnings tend to increase with age and experience.

And the gap between the lowest and highest earners is higher in the private sector, with the top 5% (95th percentile) of earners paid around 5.7 times more than the bottom 5% (5th percentile). The gap is 4.5 times in the public sector.

TUC General Secretary, Brendan Barber, said the figures reflected the fact that public sector workers were more skilled than in the private sector and reiterated the Union’s objection to Government plans to introduce national pay settlements for public sector workers.

He said:

“By setting pay nationally across the public sector, hundreds of thousands of lower-paid workers – many of them women – have been able to enjoy decent rates of pay.

“The introduction of local pay would change this, condemning them to a future of permanent poverty, and where pay inequality becomes the norm as the gender gap widens to mirror the huge salary divide between men and women in the private sector.”