Do women have longer or shorter federal careers than men?

Are monthly federal retirement checks for men and women about the same? Are women or men more likely to leave government employment and then come back?

Some of the answers, taken from official government statistics, may surprise you.

Men have longer careers in government, but they retire at a younger age than women. Because they work longer and make higher salaries, men typically get larger annuities than women.

Data from the Office of Personnel Management for 1983-84 shows that while women on average are older than men when they retire from federal career jobs, they usually have worked for shorter periods. Twice as many of them have breaks in federal service than men, in large part because they left to raise families.

Nineteen percent of the men on the federal payroll have left government and come back, most often because of military service. But slightly more than 40 percent of all women have a break in their government service.

Although they have shorter government careers -- averaging about 25 years, compared with just over 30 years for men -- women typically retire at age 62, one year later than the average man.

The median final salary for men during the 1984 fiscal year was $22,692, compared with just over $19,000 for women. Federal salaries are higher for both sexes in the Washington area because of the high concentration of upper-grade employes in headquarters offices.

But the average female civil servant here still makes less than the typical G-man.

Federal jobs pay the same salary, regardless of sex, for employes doing the same job. But men dominate most of the middle- and upper-level federal jobs while women are concentrated in the six lowest pay grades.

Because retirement contributions are a flat 7 percent of salary and because men make more and work longer periods, the median lifetime payment into the U.S. pension for men retiring last year was about $20,000, compared with about $16,000 for women. Monthly annuities for government workers are based on their salaries and length of service.

The median monthly annuity for men during the 1984 fiscal year was $1,081. For women it was $740 a month, according to the OPM.

Federal annuities are tax free until retirees have recouped all the money they paid into the civil service retirement fund.

At that point annuities become subject to federal tax and full or partial state taxes in many areas. The Senate, as part of its deficit-reduction budget package, is considering raising the employe contribution rate from 7 percent to 9 percent.

The average male retiree gets about 19 monthly checks before he has recouped all the money he put into the system and begins paying taxes on it. For women it takes about 21 months.