Reality Check: Census data casts doubt on Fraser Institute’s assertion that Alberta’s Public Servants are overpaid

Contrary to the Fraser Institute’s assertions, Alberta public-sector workers are not paid more than their private-sector counterparts, according to information obtained by the Alberta Federation of Labour.

The 2006 Census – the last Census with reliable data – shows that Alberta civil servants are not paid more than their private-sector counterparts.

In fact, private sector workers get paid two per cent more than workers with the same jobs in the public sector. Given Alberta’s red-hot economy, this is not a surprise. The private sector pay premium also reflects government deficits and never-ending rounds of so-called “belt-tightening,” caused by two decades of tax and royalty giveaways.

The 2006 Census shows the average annual wage for more than 92,000 public-sector workers as $49,064, whereas the annual average wage for 418 comparable occupations in the private sector was $50,077 – a difference of two per cent.

The Fraser Institute, on the other hand, relies on the Labour Force Survey with a meager 45 occupational classifications. These occupational classifications are not officially supported by Statistics Canada because the sample size is not large enough to produce results of sufficient quality.

A 2-per-cent wage advantage for private-sector workers over those in the private sector may not be surprising considering the province’s robust economy and public-sector restraint in light of the government’s inability to match its revenues to Alberta’s booming economy.

Occupation Type

Average Public Sector Wage

Average Private Sector Wage

Wage Difference

% Wage Difference




 $ (3,083)


Business, Finance and Admin





Natural and Applied Sciences



 $ (6,913)


Health and Related





Social Science, Education, Government



 $ (1,102)


Art, Culture, Recreation and Sport





Sales and Service





Trades, Transport and Equipment Operators





Occupations Unique to Primary Industries










The Alberta Federation of Labour used data supplied by Paul Tulloch of Living Work Consulting. Tulloch, a former Labour Economist and Information Specialist at Statistics Canada, used a custom dataset from Statistics Canada from the 2006 Census using data from the long-form census, which was filled in by 20 per cent (over 1.9 million) Canadian households. Data was provided for the number of workers and annual wages of those who worked full-time, full-year, classified by detailed occupational group (520 different specific occupations at the 4-digit level using the 2006 National Occupational Classification), by industry and region.

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