Future-proofing our public services


Sir, – The article “After 2018, public sector recruitment should slow” (Cantillon, October 12th) raises several points that have become increasingly salient in commentary on public sector recruitment.

One can only agree with the assertion that the focus should now be on delivery, as it always is in the case of our members. The same goes for the urge to prioritise the “level and composition” of the overall public sector workforce.

However, I fear that the author drew an unfortunate and erroneous interpretation that such a focus should automatically herald a brake on recruitment. It is unfortunate that Cantillon has based this interpretation on the overall recruitment figures rather than their level and composition.

A qualitative assessment would provide a more nuanced picture of the needs of the public sector, especially at managerial level. Recent research carried out by the Association of Higher Civil & Public Servants shows this in rather stark terms – 39 per cent of principal officers are aged 55 or over, while 33 per cent of assistant principal officers are in the same age bracket. This points to a substantial proportion of senior public servants heading towards a “retirement cliff”, with a corresponding loss of institutional memory. At the same time, 80 per cent of administrative officers are aged under 40. Essentially, the increase in recruitment has been focused on junior management levels rather than providing sufficiently for succession planning.

The management of public sector recruitment cannot be dictated by every peak and trough in the economy. An effective approach takes account of the macroeconomic situation, the demographic breakdown of the public service and the overall long-term needs of the country.

If the past decade has taught us anything, it must be the necessity of forward planning and future-proofing our public services. – Yours, etc,


General Secretary,

Association of Higher

Civil & Public Servants,

Fleming’s Hall,

Fleming’s Place,

Dublin 4.