Upfront, the big challenge with salary comparisons, be they in the private or public sector, is to compare apples with apples. That comparison is often made impossible through a numbers of tricks. First, what is a “monthly salary”? In one case, it may indeed be one out of tweve equal salaries, in another case it may be one out of fourteen; etc. Secondly, instead of talking about “averages”, one should present a salary pyramid which shows which percent of the total is in which bracket. Thirdly, the salary may only be one component of total compensation. There may be allowances for this, that and the other on top of it. Fourthly, one would have to know whether all recipients are subject to the same income tax legislation (some, like diplomats, may receive their salaries tax-free).
In my experience, I have found only one figure as a meaningful basis for comparison: the total amount of annual compensation (including all extra salaries, allowances, overtime, other material income substitutes, etc.) which an employee receives from the employer. I am afraid that this number is not used in the article (who knows how easily this number would be available???), so my observations are made with a caveat.
According to Athens News, 195.000 state employees (based on my information, that must come close to one-third of the total) have a “special wage scale”. Here are the details as of February 2012 (source: General Accounting Office):
- 156,000 military, police or other “uniformed” personnel. Average monthly pay: 2,000 euros
- 22,240 public sector doctors. Average monthly salary: 5,000
- 11,920 university professors. Average monthly salary: 3,356 euros
- 4,215 judges and members of the State Legal Council. Average monthly salary of 6,270
- 885 diplomats: Average monthly salary: 6,500 euros
- Bishops: Average monthly salary of 4,540 euros
An average of 2.000 Euros for military, police or other uniformed personnel wouldn’t strike me as high if that indeed translated into an annual average of 24.000 Euros all-in. Particularly when considering that the top-bracket in this group is probably two or three times this amount, there have to be many far below that in order to bring the average down. In short, I really don’t see all that much “special” about this.
The average of 5.000 Euros per month for doctors strikes me as VERY high. First of all, a doctor friend of mine tells me that his “salary” is 900 Euros per month from IKA. Of course, he could earn an additional 4.100 Euros through private practice but for that he would not only have to work VERY hard but, more importantly, he would need to have the patients! The public sector doctors, on the other hand, have it as a fixed salary.
A salary of 3.356 Euros for an university professor would not appear high. What is confusing, though, is that I keep hearing of university professors who earn maybe 1.000 Euros, if at all. Why would there be such a discrepancy among university professors? It can’t be the age!
Judges, diplomats and bishops: well, I am not going to pass judgement whether the quoted numbers are high or low for such hallowed professions. I would only hope that the recipients are aware that they belong to the very privileged section of society. Are they?
Again, the most revealing presentation would take the form of a pyramid with horizontal sections for each salary range, stipulating that salary range and the number of people in it. This would be even more revealing with pensions. I have once seen such a period for Austria. At that time, the average pension was about 700 Euros per month and the median pension (the mid-point among the number of recipients) was about 900 Euros. Both not extraordinarily high numbers. However, it was amazing to see the number of pensions significantly over a few thousand Euros. This would, of course, be fair with a private pension where the amount of pension depends on the monies paid in. With a state pension where almost everyone pays in less than he/she receives and where all of them pay equally little, there should never be so much difference with the resulting pensions.
I have a friend in Thessaloniki who retired at age 65. After the first pension cuts, his wife lamented to my wife that their annual income was now down by 12.000 Euros. I consoled my wife by explaining that if 15% of his annual pension were 12.000 Euros, he was still in pretty good shape. Apparently, my friend had had 3 careers in the pubilc sector and, accordingly, collects 3 pensions.