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Rapid growth in Civil Service? Hardly

Dear Sir,

While reading your editorial this morning (RG, August 12, 2015), I found that I was in general agreement with your position. However, there was one statement that had the potential of derailing your whole argument: “The rapid and financially unsustainable growth in the Civil Service ...”

From the attached table below, using the often criticised figures from the Department of Statistics, the Civil Service grew by less than 1 per cent per year from 1998 to 2012 (13 per cent). I’m not sure how that rate of growth can be characterised as rapid, but you may wish to elaborate. And if you were to concentrate on the boom period of 1998-2008, you will find that growth in the Civil Service was 11 per cent, lagging behind overall job growth of 13 per cent.

Now, since 2008, the economy has shed some 6,600 jobs or 16.5 per cent. If the Civil Service had kept pace with that decline, there would have been 3,500 civil servants in 2014 and not the 4,154 officially recorded. However, I suspect that when the 2015 figures for the Civil Service are released in February 2016 — although they will be ready in November of this year — we will be inching closer to the 3,500 figure, as the total is likely to fall below 4,000.

Lastly, it is common to confuse civil servants with the total on the government payroll. But any increases in the total numbers on the government payroll would have had to come from outside of the Civil Service; these would include those in education, the police service and corrections, just to name a few.

It is worth noting that if the entire Civil Service were fired today — the 4,154 — approximately $300 million would be eliminated from the government budget, enough to balance it. But all of those in the Government Administration Building, the Post Office Building and Global House, among others, would all be gone, along with the services that they provide.

Perhaps for this reason, and socially, economically and politically, the finance minister recently indicated that he is not prepared to make wholesale cuts in the Civil Service. Probably because the Civil Service is not really the problem. But if it is repeated often enough that it is, it may be believed to be the problem.



Slow burner ...

Year CS Jobs

1998 3,805 35,323

1999 4,054 37,849

2000 4,310 38,017

2001 3,834 37,687

2002 3,896 37,814

2003 3,982 37,686

2004 4,104 38,363

2005 4,056 38,947

2006 4,069 39,686

2007 4,113 39,851

2008 4,223 40,213

2009 4,318 39,520

2010 4,296 38,097

2011 4,284 37,399

2012 4,298 35,443

2013 4,237 34,277

2014 4,154 33,487

• CS = civil servants