Public sector pay has been squeezed since public spending cuts began to take effect from 2011, and it looks set to be squeezed even further up to 2020. However, this comes on the back of an increase in public sector wages relative to those in the private sector during the Great Recession. There is currently significant policy interest in the extent to which continued stagnation in public sector wages will affect the ability of the public sector to recruit and retain high-quality workers, although to date little is known about the potential effects.
We seek to add to this evidence base by examining how levels of educational achievement (on entry to higher education) have changed over time for new graduate recruits to major public sector occupations relative to all occupations. Educational achievement is not a direct measure of worker quality, but it is likely to correlate highly with individuals’ skills and the wages they are likely to be able to receive.
We look in detail at the trends for teachers, doctors, nurses and National Health Service (NHS) professions allied to medicine, as well as looking more briefly at civil servants, police officers and prison service workers, for whom it is more difficult to obtain robust data. Given the particular set of challenges affecting the recruitment of new teachers, we also look in detail at the trends for teachers by major subject area. Our main source of data is the Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey, which surveys all leavers from higher education across the UK six months after they graduate.