15 October 2012

Media interest in salaries paid to senior State Servants seems to have faded within a day or two of the State Services Commissioner releasing his annual remuneration report, and the Green Party call  for an inquiry seemed half-hearted.

There may be some justification for disquiet, although New Zealand falls behind Australia in remunerating  most senior officials – and places like Singapore and Abu Dhabi which pay officials particularly well. (The rationale in Singapore is to retain the best skilled and diminish corrupt temptations. Abu Dhabi wants to encourage nationals into public administration and avoid a dependence on foreign contractors.)  Senior civil servants in Ireland are the fourth best paid in Europe, after Italy, UK and Belgium.

The British Civil Service – now into the third year of a pay freeze for those earning more than the equivalent of NZ$42,000 –  has numerous roles with bigger “job sizing” than the New Zealand State Services, but salaries are remarkably similar ( bolstered by a strong dollar) .  According to a Press Association report in September, there are only 234 Civil Service appointees in Departments and related entities earning more than the equivalent of NZ$300,000.  The schedules attached to the SSC report on Remuneration of State Services senior staff at 30 June 2012 indicate that in New Zealand there are at least 157 appointees earning NZ$300,000.  (but there is no direct comparability eg District Health Board employees are included as part of the State Services, but UK equivalents employed by Health Trusts are not civil servants.)

Interestingly the highest paid British civil servant earns  £315,000 ( approx NZ$620,000 – or NZ$674,000 at the Big Mac conversion rate ).  The top New Zealand salary is in a band to NZ$739,999.  Since May 2010 any salary greater than the British Prime Minister’s remuneration – the equivalent of  NZ$280, 500 – must be first agreed by the Treasury.

In the United States the pay scale cascades from the US$400,000 salary paid to the President (approx NZ$490,000).   The highest salary in the Senior Executive Service is US$179,000 (approx NZ$220,000 – or NZ$245,000 at the Big Mac conversion rate).

The best paid Australian Specified Statutory Officeholder this year is the Chief of the Defence Force on A$646,000  (approx NZ$810,000 – or NZ$729,400 at the Big Mac conversion rate.)