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Fair Wages and Salary Commission boss makes FALSE claims regarding public sector employment in other countries

Claim: No government in the world is increasing public sector employment in the current global crisis.

Verdict: False! Data from the European Union and the OECD indicates countries have actually increased public sector employment in this crisis period.

Full Text

Through the Finance Minister, the government of Ghana has announced plans to freeze public sector employment effective January 2023.

The move is part of the government’s broad agenda to reduce public expenditure. It also comes as the government prepares to conclude a deal with the International Monetary Fund.

Since the announcement, a cross-section of the public and various trade unions, including the Trade Union Congress, have said that the decision “could even deepen the crisis” being faced by the country. 

The Minority caucus in Parliament has also warned that the proposed freeze, when approved, will worsen the unemployment situation in the country.

But mounting a spirited defence, Chief Executive Officer of the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission, Benjamin Arthur, claimed that no government in the world was increasing its portion of employment.

He went on to say that “worldwide, the government’s ability to hire people is going down.”

“Ghana’s structure of the economy by way of employment sectors is such that we have over 85 per cent of all employed persons in Ghana being self-account workers with employees or just one person working. So if we really want to open up opportunities in this country for people to be hired, the best approach is entrepreneurship,” he said.

“In fact, across the globe, there is no single government that, by way of proportion, is increasing its portion of employment. Worldwide, government’s ability by way of percentages to hire people is going down,” he asserted.

Benjamin Arthur made the comment during an engagement on Newsfile, a socio-political news analysis show that airs on JoyNews. The show was live-streamed on Facebook, and his claim can be found between minutes 2:27:45 to 2:30:13.

Our investigation was to find out two things:

  1. Is there any government that has increased public-sector employment?
  2. Globally, are governments reducing public sector employment?

Verification

DUBAWA Ghana found no central data point where information could be gathered regarding the public-sector employment situation in various countries across the globe. What was found was for European Union member countries and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. 

The chart for the EU member countries compares the share of government employment between 2000 and 2020, whereas the OECD data gave percentage rates of member countries from 2007 to 2020.

Government employment as a percentage of total work in EU member countries (Data source: European Union.

Is there any government that has increased public-sector employment?

Yes, some countries have been found to have increased public-sector employment between 2000 and 2020.

From European Union countries alone, we observed that Estonia, Croatia, Belgium, Poland, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Romania, Spain, Ireland, Portugal, and Norway all experienced an increase in the government’s share of employment when the 2020 rate is compared to that of 2000.

From the OECD Data, we noticed that Canada, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Turkey, amongst others, have been experiencing growing employment rates in the public sector since 2017.

Data from the UK’s Office of National Statistics Office shows that the country’s public sector has increased from 3.1 million in the first quarter of 2019 to 3.5 million by the end of the second quarter of 2022.

In its June 2022 report, the ONS noted that the increase was “because of the ongoing response of the NHS and the Civil Service to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.”

“Employment in central government was an estimated 3.55 million for June 2022, a rise of 6,000 (0.2%) compared with March 2022 and 75,000 (2.2%) compared with June 2021; the main contributors to this increase were the NHS, the Civil Service and local authority schools becoming academies,” the report reads.

A June 2022 publication by the European Central Bank also suggests that employment in the public sector within the Euro area had experienced growth.

“Employment growth in the public sector has played an important role in supporting total employment during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In the first quarter of 2022, public employment was about 3.5% above pre-pandemic levels, compared with 0.6% in industry and 0.2% in market services,” the report indicated.

Generally, are governments reducing their public sector employment?

The EU chart indicates that public sector employment as a percentage of total work among member countries was higher in 2000 than in 2020.

However, from the OECD Data, we observed that between 2018 to 2020, the average rate of government employment as a percentage of total employment rose from 17.90% to 18.45%.

To help us draw some conclusions, we relied on data from Statista regarding the situation in other West African countries.

Checking with Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte D’Ivoire, Gambia, Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo, we noticed that all of them, except Ivory Coast, have witnessed some growth in public sector employment, at least since 2018. Ivory Coast’s chart indicated a declining rate of public sector employment since 2018.

Statista did not have data for Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, and Mauritania. 

It is worth noting that data from Statista looked at the number of people employed in the public sector and not the rate of employment in the public sector as a percentage of total work in the country.

Conclusion

Benjamin Arthur’s first statement that no government in the world was increasing public-sector employment is false as data from the European Union and the OECD indicates that countries such as Belgium and Poland had increased public-sector employment.

However, we found varying data during our investigation of his second comment. For instance, whereas in the EU, we observed a fall in the rate between 2000 and 2020, the situation was the contrary in the case of the OECD. More work needs to be done to be able to draw a conclusion.

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