Recipients of "special salaries"

Here is an interesting article from Athens News on the topic of the so-called “special wage scale” in the Greek public sector.

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.

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6 Responses to Recipients of "special salaries"

  1. Anonymous says:

    "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?"Τhe judges are aware, because by law, nobody else can have higher salary than judges and members of the parliament. For the rest, it is another story. I can tell you one thing. I have met some greek employees in the greek diplomatic services who are amongst the most inefficient i have ever seen."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!"I can't help you exactly with the university professors, however, in general, you should be aware of this. This "average" salaries, is based on an article of a newspaper of February. The same here:http://www.ethnos.gr/article.asp?catid=22768&subid=2&pubid=63616846The average is calculated by: total expenditure/number of people. This doesn't mean though that the distribution is smooth around the average. It is not a "Gauss-like" distribution, if you like. Usually, in the greek public sector, when you are young or low rank, you get very little, and when you are very high rank or with many years of service, you get very much.Of course, the values above, are not "net" salary either. But to give you an example, a nephew of mine is now specializing doctor. His "net" salary is 860 euros. He gets some "extras" by working "overtimes". The director of the surgery department will be the one who is probably getting the 5000, even more if he happens to be also university professor, thus combining salaries.At the same way, the young lads that patrol on motorbikes Athens daily or the anti-riot police, take about 900 euros net. The "generals" behind the desk offices are those who get very big salaries.At the same manner, pensions in Greece were varying a lot. This is 2007 article, showing the average pension being 617 euros:http://news.kathimerini.gr/4dcgi/_w_articles_economy_1_21/06/2007_231415With only 14% being over 1000 euros. But the majority of those getting over 1000 euros, are pensioners of the glorious public telephone company. While at the same time, the average pension for farmers, was 360 euros."Apparently, my friend had had 3 careers in the pubilc sector and, accordingly, collects 3 pensions."This is a scandal which happens in Greece and was made to suit politicians and trade unionists. For example: You were in the telephone company, you were also general secretary of the trade union and then you also had a political career as a mayor for 2 terms. You will get 3 pensions: one as a worker, one as an ex unionist and one as ex mayor."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. "Your friend doesn't count as "state doctor". From what you say, he is a private doctor, who has a special contract with IKA. They are a sort of "auxiliary" or "outsiders" doctors. They are not the same as doctors who work full time in hospital.Bandolero.

  2. Anonymous says:

    "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!"Ah, something else. Although not an expert, the 1000 euros, is most certainly "net" salary. Greece has the highest pension contributions in Europe. So your offical salary is much higher than the one you actually see arriving in your wallet. The 3356 is most certainly "mixed" salary, not "net".But i imagine, that again here, rank and years in service make much difference.Bandolero.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Ah, here is an example as narrated by a greek army sergeant, in a blog for professional soldiers,where he complains to his colleagues about their salaries compared to those that a British seargent told him:- Greek seargent with 7 years of service 1210 euros (including a bonus that i don't know, it's written in initials). – Greek major with 20 years of service: 1542 euros (net)http://kranosgr.blogspot.it/2012/05/blog-post_30.htmlSo who gets the 2000? Probably the Brigadeers and above…Bandolero.

  4. Anonymous says:

    It is by no means certain that these figures are real. As said above, if you average the 5K made by the clinic director and the 1K made by most doctors you do not get 5K.In fact it is very doubtful and along the lines of witch-hunting "greeks don't pay any taxes, are lazy etc". Or that 'look they get a bonus for arriving to work in time'. True, there is such a -terribly named- "bonus", but it only refers to public transportation drivers who do the first shift and thus must arrive at work at 5in the morning and hence use a taxi or their own means. So if you would abolish that and also zero their salary, they'd be paying out of their own pocket to work.The second issue with pensions is that pensions should be a function of the money that was withheld from your salary for that purpose throughout your working years. So if your withholdings are such as to support a 5K pension, why not?And that should be the ***only*** question(it was good when the pension funds/state were pocketing the money from the withholdings -which was not a demand by the worker anyway-, now when they have to pay back they try to weasel their way out?)For university professors the salary(for a full professor)before the crisis was some 2500euros/month. The nominal salary was much lower, but was augmented by 'bonus for preparing for courses, bonus for using the library etc' plus of course maturity salary increases. In the americanmentality all these are improper: The proper way would be to give a decent salary and stop this still games-which actually suits the state because the bonuses are much easier to slash than the salary. But to someone who comes perhaps from abroad to work in Greece, all he would care is the net salary, not how it's called.As for judges etc, I do not mind paying competent people well. I do mind though paying well for people who can rule that pigs can fly and are untouchable. With power there must be accountability.

  5. kleingut says:

    I have to respond to your comment on pensions immediately…I share your view and that's how it works with a private pension fund. But if states followed your rule that state pensions should be a direct function of what you paid in, then you would have massive pension reductions, and by far not only in Greece. In Austria, I am told, most pensions are "under water" if one were to apply the calculations of a private pension fund. That's why I stated that "with a state pension nearly everyone pays in less than he/she receives".

  6. Anonymous says:

    I assume the calculations take into account investment gains for about 30-35 years. If so there are two options:1) reduce pensions to the water mark2) have the state disengage from pensions, that is have only a minimal withholdings that will result in a minimum uniform pension. Whoever wants more, should make one's own plans. Of course the transition period will be especially tricky. However this is a key difference between Europe and the US. In the US wages are generally a lot better, but there is no social protection(e.g. pension and medical); In Europe wages are not as good, but social protection is much better. What people understandably strongly reacted to is for instance the 1996 Juppe reforms in France is the attempt to reduce the social benefits, without increasing wages. This is basically a breach of contract. Same with the troika reforms in Greece: If you came to work in Greece with a given contract that gave you say a low wage compared to what you could get, but some other benefits, well, now you lose the other benefits and you are stuck with the low wage that for the last 20 years or so had settled for in return for the benefits. At any rate, my point was replying to a previous post about large pensions. "large" and "small" should be in comparison to what you have actually paid. Quoting a figure of 3K or 1 K says nothing without these figures.

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