Disillusioned public sector workers appear to have hit a new morale low as we go into 2012, with more than half (52%) of job seekers saying they would be prepared to sacrifice their pension for a career in the private sector. The preliminary findings of the Hays Career Outlook Survey (undertaken in Nov/Dec 2011) show that although those working in the public sector were fiercely defensive of their pensions, the pull of the private sector and its perceived higher job security is attractive to job seekers.

With job cuts, pay freezes and scrutiny over service delivery prevalent in the public sector it is clear the pressure is on and employers will need to work even harder to get the best from their staff. Other early findings from the research show over three-quarters (84%) of public sector employers are concerned that they will struggle to keep skilled workers, and almost half (46%) say they will be unable to attract the skilled people needed for the twelve months ahead. 80 per cent believe this will have an impact on the delivery of public services.

Almost two-thirds (60%) of public sector workers say the public sector is a worse place to work compared to before the recession, compared to only 40% in the private sector. Over three-quarters (76%) of public sector employers believe the sector is more stressful than a year ago.

Andy Robling, Public Services Director at Hays, says, “These results indicate the potential dangers ahead for the public sector if something is not done to address poor morale and the perceptions some workers have about what the two sectors offer in terms of career progression and job security.

“Public sector employers are clearly worried about keeping and attracting the staff they need – the question is what impact will this have on frontline services and how can we minimise any negative impact? The news that over half of workers in the public sector, who often choose work there to make a positive difference to society, would consider trading in their pension for a career in the private sector underlines how keen they are to move. Whilst conditions in the private sector are challenging too it is clearly one step ahead of the public sector in terms of attracting and motivating talent.”

Heading into the New Year, both sectors report difficult working conditions, with employers describing morale as ‘pressured’ (45% of public sector employers, 46% in the private), and their employees agree. Public sector employers lay the blame for this at the government’s door, while their private sector counterparts blame the global economy. Early data indicates a lack of career progression in both sectors is also causing a problem for staff.

Robling continues; “In order to be in a position to tackle these important challenges in 2012 it’s vital that employers in both sectors take action now. In particular, public sector bosses need to ensure their staff possess the right skills, that they are communicating a positive vision and that they have flexible incentive packages in place so as to support their organisation through these turbulent times.”