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Since 1979, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has conducted an annual study of the incidence and detailed characteristics of employee benefits paid for at least in part by the employer. Known as the Employee Benefits Survey, it was originally a measure of the benefits provided to employees in private sector medium and large size firms in selected industries. Over the years, it has been expanded to cover the entire civilian economy, except the Federal Government, households, and agriculture. Benefits covered include lunch and rest periods, holidays, vacations, and personal, funeral, military, jury-duty, and sick leave; sickness and accident, long-term disability, and life insurance; health care benefits; and retirement and capital accumulation plans. Data are also collected on the incidence of several other benefits, including severance pay, educational assistance, er-ployer-subsidized parking, child care, and employee assistance programs. Flexible benefit plans, reimbursement accounts, and paid and unpaid parental leave round out the list of benefits surveyed.
Key survey findings are reported annually by BLS in its bulletin series. The most recent private sector bulletin is Employee Benefits in Medium and Large Firms, 1988, Bulletin 2336 (Stock No. 029-001-03005-3 at $8.50). The most recent public sector bulletin is Employee Benefits in State and Local Governments, 1987, Bulletin 2309 (Stock No. 029-011-02976-4 at $4.50). Data on small private firms
will be available in 1991. Bulletins are available from the BLS Publications Sales Center, P.O. Box 2145, Chicago, IL 60690.
Additional information on specific topics is reported in occasional Monthly Labor Review articles. All the articles published between 1979, the inception of the Employee Benefits Survey program, and February 1990 are reprinted here. The first article, "Bureau of Labor Statistics takes a new look at employee benefits," published in 1982, describes the design and coverage of the program at its inception. The second, "Comparing employee benefits in the public and private sectors," published in 1988, describes the results of the evolving survey by comparing benefits in the public and private sectors. The articles that follow are organized by benefit type: Retirement and capital accumulation plans; health care benefits; life insurance; disability protection; and emerging benefits.
Persons interested in the micro data collected from individual reporting establishments (with establishmentidentifying information deleted) can purchase a set of magnetic tapes containing the survey's data base. Those wishing to purchase the tapes should contact: Employee Benefits Survey Program, Office of Compensation and Working Conditions, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Washington, DC 20212.
Bureau of Labor Statistics takes a new look at employee benefits
Initiated in 1979, annual survey provides
a comprehensive study of benefit plan coverage
and provisions in medium and large firms
Robert Frlmkin And William Wiatrowski
In 1981, employees in medium and large size establishments received, on average, about 10 paid holidays each year and nearly 16 days of paid vacation annually after 10 years of service. For 3 of 5 participants in a life insurance plan, coverage was based on earnings, with the prevalence of earnings-related plans much higher among white-collar employees. Seventy-one percent of the workers covered by the survey participated in health insurance plans that were fully paid for by their employers, and just under one-half also received employer-paid coverage for their dependents. Eighty-four percent of the employees were covered by private retirement pension plans (in addition to social security); 79 percent were in plans fully paid for by the employer.
As these statistics indicate, benefit plans are important elements in the typical employee compensation package. Employer outlays for legally required and private benefits, including paid leave, constituted about one-fourth of all expenditures for employee compensation in 1977, when this subject was last studied by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.1 Moreover, the rate of growth in outlays for these benefits has substantially outpaced that for wages and salaries over the 40-year period since benefits began to gain prominence.
For many years, BLS tracked growth of benefit plans by studying both their provisions and their cost to employers.2 Recently, BLS initiated an annual survey on the incidence and characteristics of employee benefit plans.
Robert Frumkin and William Wiatrowski are economists in the Division of Occupational Pay and Employee Benefit Levels, Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This article describes the design, coverage, output, and availability of results from this new survey, which was first conducted in 1979.
The survey reports detailed characteristics of paid leave, insurance, and pension plans, yielding extensive data on employee benefit plan provisions. In addition, it produces estimates of the percent of employees covered by these plans or eligible for other benefits, such as profit sharing and educational assistance. Data are published for all full-time workers in three occupational groups: professional-administrative, technical-clerical, and production.
The program originally was designed to provide the Office of Personnel Management (opm) with data on specific provisions of private sector employee benefits for a new approach to evaluating pay and benefits of Federal employees. This approach compares the Federal wage-benefit package with that in private industry.' (Current legislation requires that pay rates for Federal civilian workers, but not their benefits, be set on a comparability basis.) To meet Opm's needs, Bls developed a survey to provide extensive data on employee benefits, covering the same industry and size scope as the Bureau's annual Professional, Administrative, Technical, and Clerical Pay Survey that is currently used to evaluate Federal white-collar salary rates.4
The employee benefits survey covers medium and large size private sector establishments in the contiguous United States, employing at least 50, 100, or 250 workers, depending on the industry. A subsample of