Queensland Economic Advocacy Solutions

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Is Queensland out of step with our increasing public service headcount?

There has been a lot of talk this year about growth in public sector numbers in Queensland.  With the Mid-year Fiscal and Economic Review (MYFER) to be delivered this week QEAS takes a look at this important topic. 

This issue tends to focus on growth across years (longitudinal comparison).  We thought it might be interesting to compare public sector growth relative to other States and as a percentage of each State’s population to see what falls out. 

Findings from ABS data highlights:

  • Since 2007-08 Victoria (25.0%) has had the highest growth in State Government employees followed by Queensland (18.1%), Western Australia (13.9%), New South Wales (11.9%), South Australia (4.5%).  The average for all the States and Territories is 16.1%.
  • The majority of this growth for Queensland has occurred since 2014-15 (10.3%) and compares to Victoria's 9.1%
  • Higher population growth States like Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia have had higher growth in State Government employee numbers and vice versa for lower population growth States like South Australia.
  • States with bigger population bases such as New South Wales and Victoria are able to achieve economies of scale in the delivery of government services and accordingly have a lower ratio of State public Service employees to their population.  As is the case for States with a higher population density.

It is clear that public expectation on the effectiveness and efficiency of core government services such as health, education, public transport and law and order has profoundly influenced the Palaszczuk Government in respect to the number of State public service employees in Queensland.  However, so too has population density, population growth, economies of scale and to some extent political ideology.

All States have had an increasing public servant headcount but interestingly, with the exception of Victoria, all States over the past decade including Queensland have managed to confine these increases to less than or equal to the rate of increase for their respective population over the same period.

The warning though is this …. Queensland’s rapid increase in State public service employees as a percentage of population is now equivalent to what it was a decade ago.  Should the rate of growth that has occurred in the last several years continue we would join Victoria in being in the dubious position of letting our headcount grow by a higher percentage than population growth despite technology gains in service delivery.

The message in all this is for the State Government is to now taper off the growth and level peg it with population growth.  The MYFER to be delivered this week will be a timely opportunity to scrutinise the State Government’s performance in managing our State’s finances prudently.

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