17 June 2016

Core Public Service Numbers #nlpoli

Somebody requested the number of public servants through Access to Information and the folks in the department answered only half the question.

But that's okay because the figures for the core public service are worth looking at anyway.

Regular readers will recognise the trend.  Starting in 2006,  the Conservatives went on a hiring spree.  They took the core public service from 6,792 in 2005 to 9,090 by 2011.  Bit of a steep drop between 2011 and 2012 and a steady decline since then.  As of the middle of May this year, there were about 7,978 people in the core public service. 

That's 2,298 new hires between 2005 and 2011 or an increase of 34%.  The core public service has shed 1,192 in the past five years.  If you continued to let the public service decline at the same rate,  we'd get to the 2005 number somewhere around 2021.

Not surprisingly, that is precisely the policy adopted by the Conservatives and now continued under the Liberals.  Education minister Dale Kirby said in the House during the filibuster that the government did not want to do to the economy what happened as a result of the cod moratorium.  That means they are not keen on flicking people out through the door even though that would reduce government spending immediately and have the bonus of chopping into the unfunded pension and benefits liability that comes with letting people retire at their own pace.

To put some hard numbers on that,  you can see that in the 2016 budget the government expects that their salary and benefits costs will be a little over $808 million for about 8,000 employees. That yields a cost per employee of about $101,000.  In other words, if you could chop 1,000 employees out of the system, you'd save immediately $101 million plus you'd reduce your eventual liability for pension and benefits accordingly.

The government has opted not to do that.  Instead, they will let the number draw down over five years, hopefully getting to the spot where it was in 2005.  Of course, those fewer employees will cost more than they did in 2005 and the government will still have to deal with the future liabilities for pensions that are chronically underfunded largely as a result of the hiring and spending spree the Conservatives went on between 2005 and 2011.