Economy

Public sector employment

Public sector employment levels and rates across the UK nations have changed since 2008, with particular changes over the last couple of years. In its March 2013 Economic and Fiscal Forecast, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has forecast that there will be a reduction in employment in central and local government (also known as General Government Employment) of around 1 million across the UK from 2010-11 to 2017-18. This would represent a reduction in UK General Government Employment of approximately 18.6%.

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Public sector employment levels and rates across the UK nations have changed since 2008, with particular changes over the last couple of years.    In its March 2013 Economic and Fiscal Forecast, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has forecast that there will be a reduction in employment in central and local government (also known as General Government Employment) of around 1 million across the UK from 2010-11 to 2017-18.  This would represent a reduction in UK General Government Employment of approximately 18.6%.

In comparison with the other UK nations, Wales has historically had a relatively high percentage of its workforce employed in the public sector, with only Northern Ireland being higher.  Due to this, decreases in public sector employment are likely to hit the Welsh economy particularly hard.  While there are no similar forecasts to the OBR figures available in relation to Wales, if a similar reduction in General Government Employment were to occur based on 2011 figures, this could result in the loss of around 58,800 jobs in central and local government in Wales between 2011 and 2018.   This would represent a 4.5 per cent reduction in total employment in Wales, assuming that employment levels in the private sector and public corporations such as the Royal Mail remained the same.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) publishes a Regional Analysis of Public Sector Employment each year, which uses the public sector employment figures from quarter 2 of each year as a proxy for annual public sector employment.  From these it is possible to analyse changes in levels and rates of public sector employment.

  • The number of people employed in the public sector in Wales has decreased from 355,000 in 2008 to 334,000 in 2012.  This is a decrease of 21,000 people or 5.9%.
  • Of the UK nations, Scotland saw the highest reduction in public sector employment, with a decrease of 9.6% between 2008 and 2012, whereas only Northern Ireland saw a lower reduction than Wales, of 4.4%.

Change in public sector employment in the UK nations between 2008 and 2012 image1

Source: Research Service calculations from Office for National Statistics

The public sector employment rate is the percentage of people aged 16 and over who are in employment that work in the public sector.

  • The public sector employment rate in Wales has decreased from 27.3% to 25.6% between 2008 and 2012.  This is a reduction of 1.7 percentage points. 
  • There were greater percentage point reductions in Northern Ireland and Scotland, but a lower reduction in England.

Public sector employment rate in the UK nations, 2008 to 2012

imagw2

Source: Research Service calculations from Office for National Statistics

Further statistical information is available from the research note on Public Sector Employment recently published by the Research Service.


Article by  National Assembly for Wales Research Service.