Evidence from many countries show that public sector employees have considerably higher rates of absenteeism than have private sector employees. Based on regression analyses of a large probability sample of the Norwegian population, this article shows that most of the sector difference in long-term absence can be accounted for by taking into consideration the socio-demographic characteristics of the workforce and the occupational composition in the two sectors. A clear sector difference in short-term absenteeism cannot be accounted for in this way. A direct effect of the working or employment conditions in the two sectors is also not a likely explanation, since workers who switch between the sectors are not more absent when they are in the public than when they are in the private sector. Thus, the high level of short-term absenteeism in the public sector seems to be due to a selection of absence prone individuals to the sector. Since motivational factors are likely to be relatively more important for short-term than for long-term, these findings indicate that lower work attendance motivation in among public sector employees may be the main driver. These patterns are consistent with an economic explanation in which people with low attendance motivation select to the public sector, since the work attendance incentives are weaker there. The degree to which the results are compatible with the theory Public Service Motivation (PSM) is also discussed.
Absenteeism in the Public and the Private Sector: Does the Public Sector Attract High Absence Employees?