Public sector employment keeps on rising

May 26 2004 by Brian Amble Print This Article

The explosion in the number of jobs in the UK public sector has continued unabated, with official statistics showing that some 162,000 new jobs were created in the public sector in the year to June 2003, compared to an 89,000 rise in the previous year.

More than half a million (509,000) public-sector jobs have been created since 1998, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS)

The fastest growing areas of public sector employment have been in those areas that have seen the largest additional public spending. The bulk of the job gains were in education (up 88,000 jobs) and health (up 63,000).

The increase in the year to 2003 compares to a fall in growth experienced between 2001-2002 when the NHS created 61,000 new jobs and education some 11,000.

Together, health and education now account for just under 60 per cent of public sector jobs compared with around 40 per cent in 1983.

Police and 'other central government' employment also increased (adding 9,000 and 22,000 jobs respectively). But local government services, construction and social services have all seen decreased headcounts Ė social services by almost 20,000.

Prior to 1998, public sector employment had been falling for over 15 years. And while the current totals are still below the levels seen in the 1970s and 1980s, by far the biggest single cause of the fall since that period was the reclassification of corporations (such as BT) following privatisation.

The 162,000 new public-sector jobs contrast to only 98,000 new private sector jobs created during the same period and is bound to lead to accusations that public-sector expansion is economically unsustainable at its current rate.

Shadow Chancellor Oliver Letwin said that "public sector administration and bureaucracy are completely out of hand" and pointed out that that of the 88,000 new posts created in 'education', other government figures showed that only 4,000 were teaching jobs.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Stewart Robertson, an analyst at Lombard Street Research, said that many of the new positions were not for front-line staff but for civil servants who were monitoring government targets.

"It is deeply questionable whether these people contribute to national income," Robertson said.