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Queensland Economic Advocacy Solutions

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Debunking myths about public sector growth and Queensland's jobs market

Over the past several weeks a number of persons have suggested to me that the recent improvement in Queensland’s labour market is merely as a result of growth in the State’s public service. I wish to debunk that suggestion and provide a few brief statistics and graphs about the impact of rising public servant numbers on the Sunshine State’s jobs market.

Queensland Public Service

Firstly I am on record stating that I have serious misgivings over the sustainability of the recent growth in public servants and the inevitable need to increase taxes if we don’t start to rein it in soon.

However I believe allowing the state public sector to grow but only in line with population is a very sensible expectation (as can be seen from this blog, this is unfortunately not the case).  We are well ahead and the State Government’s sixth fiscal principle is clearly in tatters.

Now back to the purpose of this blog …..

Queensland’s labour market is growing regardless of the significant growth that is occurring in the public sector.  To provide the statistics, since the last State election:

  • Queensland full-time jobs have grown by 19,891 persons whilst full-time public sector headcount has grown by 12,760 persons;
  • Queensland part-time jobs have grown by 60,676 persons whilst part-time public sector headcount has grown by 9,195 persons; and
  • Queensland total employment has grown by 80,567 persons whilst total public sector headcount has grown by 21,955 persons.

In summary taking out the public sector still delivers net growth in full-time jobs of 7,131; net growth of 51,481part-time jobs; and total net jobs growth of 58,612.

This debunks any suggestion that we are only growing as a result of the Palaszczuk Government’s restoration of frontline services.

However I wish to provide the following graph that measures what our unemployment rate would be without a ballooning public service.  I unwittingly stirred up a bit of hornet’s nest with the below graph.  In measuring ‘ballooning‘ I initially used the change in headcount from December 2014 and added any increase in that headcount to the number unemployed persons to recalculate the unemployment rate.  I have since changed the definition of ‘ballooning’ to be any additional headcount over and above the growth in headcount allowing for population growth.  The new graph is below.  

This unemployment rate is an upper estimate as it is important to point out that these new public servants may have come from interstate or previously had a job so it is not certain that they would otherwise be unemployed. Regardless what we can conclude is that the State Government’s record on delivering a lower unemployment rate is certainly a whole lot better as a result of public sector growth.

To bring this all together, I honestly believe that the State Government would avoid a considerable amount of criticism if it would only link headcount growth to a series of metrics measuring the performance of service delivery in the areas of education; health; law and order; and public transport.

It is not enough to say the jobs are in frontline services (and not all of it is) voters want to see, feel and measure commensurate improvements that we should reasonably conclude occurs when we hire addional frontline workers. I note the State Government has commissioned KPMG to conduct analysis on the rise in public servant numbers.  I sincerely hope for the sake of the above that a considerable amount of their scope is devoted to forging a measureable linkage between more public servants and better frontline services. If it does not then I believe the State Government will continue to cope a significant amount of criticism and rightly so.

However the myth that our labour market has grown only as a result of the public sector is busted.

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