Rise in number of people in public sector jobs


The Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (Isme), has called on the Government to cut up to 30,000 public sector jobs as new figures show a rise in the number of people employed in the civil service.

According to data from the Central Statistics Office, overall employment in the public sector, including the health sector, was 373,100 in June, an increase of 7,500 compared with June 2007.

Employment in the education sector increased from 97,000 to 101,600 in the year to June, a rise of 4,600. Employment in Regional Bodies meanwhile rose by 1,200 to 41,200.

The numbers of people in the health sector declined by by 1,100 from 111,600 in June 2007 to 110,500 in June of this year.

The latest CSO figures also show that average weekly earnings for public sector staff rose by 1.7 per cent.

The index of average earnings, which excludes some effects of changes in employment composition, rose by 2.5 per cent in the year to June. Average weekly earnings rose by 3.6 per cent in the year to March while the index of average earnings rose by 4.0 per cent for the same period.

Employment in the public sector has risen by 71,600 since 2000 while there has been a 118 per cent increase in pay and pensions for civil servants, according to Isme.

Commenting on the latest CSO figures this afternoon, the association's chief executive Mark Fielding claimed that public sector costs were "a constant drain on the public finances."

Isme warned that unless a serious overhaul of the sector, including forced job cuts and reduced expenditure, was implemented, the measures on taxation and borrowing introduced in the recent Budget would be nothing when compared to what measures will have to be implemened further down the line.

"Public servants are paid on average €49,000 per annum in comparison to €41,500 in the private sector and well in excess of the average industrial wage, currently €34,000. The public sector pay and pensions bill has increased by 118% since 2000 and is forecast at almost €19 billion by year end, accounting for almost half of total public current expenditure," said Mr Fielding.

“Unless the Public Sector is brought into line, including the pay element, the rest of the economy will be left to pick up the pieces through further increases in taxation and even higher borrowing,” he added.

Isme called for a recruitment embargo across the public sector and a commitment to reduce numbers in the civil service by 30,000 over the next two years. It also pressed for the outsourcing of services such as administration to the private sector.

"A long overdue pay and recruitment freeze, together with an efficiency drive, is urgently required to reduce the burden of a sector that threatens to strangle the rest of the economy, if immediate action is not taken," said Mr Fielding.

Fine Gael also criticised the Government over the public sector with the party's enterprise spokesman Leo Varadkar claiming that Brian Lenihan's promise this week to cut back on the number of civils servants was an "empty promise."

“The Budget contains no details of Brian Lenihan’s plans for a redundancy or early retirement scheme for public servants. Like so much of this Government’s plans, this proposal has been put out to review and will probably be shelved in the future," he said.

However, the country's largest public sector union, Impact, said criticism of increases in employment fails to acknowledge that such increases are in response to service demand in areas such as education.

It added that Government plans for a reduction in public service payroll costs by the end of 2009 will limit services, especially to the most vulnerable service users and said this is already happening in ceratin areas.

"Despite an ongoing chorus of disapproval, with repeated calls for mass redundancies in public services, nobody has yet identified where the 'excess' jobs are. There is an onus on those who make such claims to state specifically what services are surplus to requirement, and to make an honest acknowledgement that job cuts result in cuts to services,"  said the union in a statement.