Government sector jobs set to drop below 5m by 2017

Julian Harris
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OFFICIAL government employment is set to fall to a modern-era low as a proportion of total UK employment, if the coalition’s plans are carried through until 2017.

General government employment is forecast to decline to 4.9m – down from its current level of 5.7m – by the start of 2017, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).

Although the measure does not include some state-paid contractors, or staff of taxpayer-backed organisations, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) says the drop would be “a tectonic shift in the underlying structure of the labour market”.

“In the nineties the lowest the public sector hit was about 18 per cent of the workforce,” the CIPD’s John Philpott told City A.M. “By 2017 it would be closer to 16 per cent [on these projections],” he added.

In 1999, when the currently used measure of public sector employment began to be recorded, there were 5.4m people directly employed by the UK state. The figure grew to a peak of 6.35m in 2009, Labour’s final full year in power.

While public sector jobs are expected to drop below 5m, the fall will be more than offset by the private sector adding around 1.7m jobs by 2017, the OBR expects.