If I worked for the Government
Organisation: La Nación (Costa Rica) (Costa Rica)
Publication Date: 04/03/2017
Size of team/newsroom:large
DescriptionIn Costa Rica, the entirety of wage incentives for public servants comes from taxation. In 2016, those extra benefits consumed $1.400 million, which accounts for 10% of the National Budget. The incentives cause important differences between the wages of the private and the public sector. The disparities also arise between different public institutions, since each branch of the Government has the liberty to dictate wage policies for its workers. To show the disparities, we created the web app: “If I worked for the Government”. In the app the user can enter his academic and professional profile to estimate his wage and the incentives he would receive if he worked in a Central Government institution. The user can compare the result with his current salary, and see how can his monthly pay improve if he adds more education, experience or if he changes the institution. To estimate the results we created a database using the Manual of Positions and salary resolutions of each government agency. From those PDF documents we extracted, for each position, the academic and professional requirements, the base salary and the wage incentives. We created the first database in the country that systematized information about public wages, positions and incentives. The database, which is available for download, has 3.135 observations and a sample of 501 positions. ¿What did we find? The wage gap between Central Government employees is a result of the differences in the base salaries and the wage incentives each institution pay. For instance, for the same schooling and experience, the Judiciary has the highest wages and the Executive the lowest. The median salary of the judicial officials is between 1.5 and 2 times that of the employees of the executive. The wage gap widens for low skilled workers. Besides the application, we also investigated how these incentives were created, to give context and an explanation to the data the users could find in the app. We discovered that since 1957, institutions started creating wage incentives to attract skilled workers but as time went by, incentives became a mechanism to create privileges for specific groups. For example, the independence each branch of the Government had to dictate its wage policies, allowed the Judiciary to create incentives, when the country was on the verge of a financial crisis. As a result, their spending in wage incentives grew 148% in real terms, between 2006 and 2016, the highest increase among the Central Goverment.
What makes this project innovative? What was its impact?Even though the public salaries are constantly in the public debate, this was the first data driven investigation in the country that explained the topic in detail and gave the users the opportunity to interact with real data. Instead of telling our readers that the wages in the public sector were high, we allowed them to see it for themselves in an interactive and friendly way. The app had only four steps with instructions, to make the experience simple. The graphs update in real time according to the information that the user enters in the application. We chose a minimalist design and decided to highlight the key figures and results. In addition, we used JSON for information processing, in order to reduce the loading and response time, and improve the overall user experience.
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