If President Reagan gets his way and manages to freeze federal salaries, make employes pay more for their pensions and work longer to get them, the question is, who is going to want to work for the government?

Right now the answer is simple: A lot of people.

Unemployment is high. Some industries (steel) may never fully recover. We've all seen pictures of 10,000 people lining up for a handful of job openings.

But suppose that changes?

Suppose things get better?

Suppose we come out of this recession, and unemployment drops dramatically--as the administration says (as it said, correctly, about inflation) it will?

Rep. Mary Rose Oakar (D-Ohio) is going to ask questions like that next Wendnesday when she confronts Donald J. Devine.

Oakar heads the House subcommittee on Compensation and Employe Benefits. It has jurisdiction over much legislation affecting government workers and retirees.

Devine heads the Office of Personnel Management, and is the administration's chief architect for changes (they say reforms) in the federal personnel system.

Oakar wants Devine to explain, in detail, just what the administration is proposing, and why, and to spell out how it would affect people--including 342,000 of them here--who work for Uncle Sam.

But she also plans to ask Devine if he (and the president) have thought about the impact the proposals may have on the quality of the government--which like most outfits is only as good as its employes--in the future.

Administration officials feel that federal pay and fringe benefits, especially the retirement system, are much more generous than those offered in the private sector.

"Government workers are absolutely, positively obsessed with security and early retirement," an administration official said yesterday. He said the president's proposals, which are being translated into legislative language, would protect the rights of employes who are at or "very near" the age for retirement under current rules. "But we are deadly serious about getting reforms that will shore up the federal retirement fund, and make the government as an employer more like the private sector."

Should be an interesting hearing.