Over the past eight years, public sector employment has ballooned to unprecedented levels, with an increase of almost 10,000 people put directly on the public payroll since March 2013, an analysis by The Shift based on official NSO data shows.
This means that when compared to March 2013, taxpayers are having to fork out an additional €184 million in salaries, according to a conservative estimate, apart from allowances and other perks connected to government employment.
The average remuneration in Malta in 2019 stood at €19,721 annually, according to the NSO, although most of those recruited are paid more.
While Prime Minister Robert Abela’s government continues to deny accusations of rampant nepotism and electioneering by constituted bodies, of massive State recruitment to buy votes, the government’s own statistics contradict its stance.
NSO data shows that while in March 2013 – the month Labour was returned to power – public sector employment stood at 40,608, by March of this year the number of those receiving a salary from public coffers had reached 50,808.
Up to 2013, the aim of the then PN government was to reduce the public sector – already considered too large and underemployed at the time – by some 500 posts a year, mainly by not replacing some of those retiring. Yet the Labour government has moved in the opposite direction.
Since its return to power – the Labour administration has increased the public sector by dishing out an average of more than 1,000 new jobs every year, over and above the replacement of retiring employees.
The statistics show that in its first year in power, Labour increased the public sector by almost 2,000 new jobs. The same happened in 2017, the year when Labour won its second mandate under the leadership of disgraced former prime minister Joseph Muscat.
It’s worse than it seems
While, on paper, the NSO data shows that almost 10,000 new jobs have been added to the public payroll since March 2013, the true figure is much higher. The total number of people that Labour has effectively put on the State payroll is closer to 22,000 new employees.
Senior public service officials told The Shift it’s estimated that every year at least 1,500 public sector employees reach retirement age and stop working. This means that 1,500 new vacancies a year are already up for grabs.
“Apart from replacing the 1,500 retirees a year with new recruits, they even had to add another 1,000 jobs every year,” a senior public servant said.
While the NSO data already raises questions about the impact on the country’s public coffers, already €8 billion in the red and carrying a record annual deficit, this is still not the whole picture.
Through the Community Workers Scheme, the brainchild of current unelected Finance Minister Clyde Caruana, more than 1,000 long term unemployed were also put on the public payroll through a scheme controlled by a GWU Foundation.
Despite these workers’ salaries being fully paid by the government, these workers are being considered by the NSO to be employed by the ‘private sector’ – as the GWU foundation is considered to be private.
The same applies to thousands of other workers, employed with private contractors, and fully funded by lucrative government contracts.
These include thousands of security, health, clerical, maintenance, landscaping and waste management personnel, among others, employed to serve in government Ministries, departments and public hospitals through private contractors.
Although the NSO considers the above to be private sector employees, in reality they’re all working on government jobs that are fully paid for by taxpayers.
It’s now also become customary for ministers and politicians to put constituents on the public payroll through these hired private companies.
Government boasts of record employment
Though the prime minister claims, on a weekly basis, that the Labour government has succeeded in bringing unemployment down and the gainfully occupied up to record levels, statistics clearly show that the Labour government has done this by hiring thousands of additional workers on the government payroll.
Last week, constituted bodies including the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, the Malta Employers Association, the Gozo Business Chamber and the MUMN, called on the government to cease its recruitment drive of unnecessary jobs in the lead up to the looming general elections.
In strongly-worded statements, the constituted bodies called upon the government to commission an independent review of public sector employment and resources and to second underemployed resources to the private sector.
The constituted bodies warned that apart from creating serious long term problems, particularly for government finances, the government’s ongoing jobs-for-votes drive is draining resources from the private sector.