EBRI Issue Brief

Employee Benefits in Total Compensation

Feb 1, 1991 25  pages


  • Employee benefits accounted for 16 percent of total U.S. employee compensation in 1989, up from 8 percent in 1960. Between 1970 and 1989, inflation-adjusted benefit spending per full-time employee grew by 63 percent—from $2,970 to $4,842—while average cash pay remained almost flat at near $25,000.
  • More than 80 percent of Americans believe that employee benefits are "important" or "very important" considerations when choosing a job. Most would choose a job without benefits over one with benefits only if offered $5,000 or more in additional annual pay.
  • Fifty-four percent of all nonfarm private-sector employees and 90 percent of all public-sector employees worked for employers that offered both health insurance and retirement benefits in 1988. More than 79 percent of these "covered" employees had moderate annual earnings of between $10,000 and $35,000.
  • Workers most likely to have benefits include those working in the public sector or for large private firms and those with higher earnings or longer job tenure.
  • Seventy-six percent of all nonfarm employees whose employers offered retirement benefits in 1988 participated in the plan that year. Eighty-one percent of those whose employers offered health insurance participated in the plan.
  • Among the 58 million nonfarm employees eligible for sick leave in 1988, 59 percent could receive full pay while sick, and 26 percent could receive full or partial pay for more than 130 days.