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A study of two Saskatchewan towns suggests, contrary to popular wisdom, that the public sector plays a vital role in the economic health of rural Canada.

The study, by the Centre for Rural Studies and Enrichment points out that the public sector provides 25 per cent of the wages and 21 per cent of all jobs in rural Saskatchewan.

The 55,800 public sector workers in rural and northern Saskatchewan spend 75 per cent of their wages locally, which creates another 21,762 jobs. All told, the public sector contributes $2.68 billion to rural and northern economies each year.

In Meadow Lake and Melville, the two communities profiled in the study, 73 per cent of public employees volunteered, amounting to a contribution of at least $200,000 in free labour.

The study also points out that public sector employment is an important source of income for women. In some communities, public sector employment also supports family-owned businesses, including farm operations.

The complete study, which was commissioned by CUPE and SGEU, is available at: http://www.stpeters.sk.ca/crse/crse.html