This article investigates whether the institution of life-time tenure for public sector workers affects the selection of workers into private and public sector occupations. Precisely, we argue that more generous employment protection for public sector workers may induce risk averse individuals to select into public sector employment even if they have a low intrinsic motivation and talent for this type of occupation. To empirically assess this effect, we use Germany as a testing ground and exploit changes in employment protection induced by the German reunification in 1990 as a source for identification. Specifically, while occupational choices in West Germany (Federal Republic of Germany) and post reunification East Germany may be affected by the described security motive, workers in pre reunification East Germany (German Democratic Republic, GDR) enjoyed an employment guarantee irrespective of their occupation. Using data from the German Socioeconomic Panel, we employ a difference-in-differences approach and use absenteeism as a proxy for intrinsic worker motivation and productivity. The results suggest a significant selection effect: public sector employees who chose their occupation in the FRG report more days of absence relative to comparable private sector workers than the control group of public sector workers who chose their occupation in the former GDR. This effect turns out to be robust against controlling for potential socioeconomic and cultural differences between the groups.