Information tabled in parliament this week on how the staff complement at the relatively small Housing Authority has mushroomed over the past six years is symptomatic of the burgeoning growth of the country’s public sector over recent past years.
Fielding a parliamentary question from Opposition MP Ivan Bartolo, who asked for a list of departures and new recruits at the Housing Authority since 2017, Minister Roderick Galdes inadvertently revealed how the Authority’s number of employees on its books has ballooned.
According to the information tabled, in December 2016 the Authority had a total of 125 employees, and that number had grown to 181 as of last month – representing an increase of more than 44%.
Galdes admitted that instead of just replacing the employees who had either resigned or left at pensionable age, the Authority recruited no less than 140 new employees to replace the 84 who left. This means that for every employee who left the Authority, almost two additional workers replaced them.
Sources at the Authority told The Shift, “It is a given that many of the Authority’s new recruits hail from Qormi or Galdes’ sixth electoral district.”
The staff situation at the Housing Authority is a perfect representation of what has been quietly taking place across the public sector since 2013 in terms of public sector employment.
Research carried out by The Shift based on official National Statistics Office data shows that while in March 2013, the number of people gainfully occupied in the public sector stood at 41,507, that level reached 51,119 by May 2022.
This means that in less than ten years of Labour administrations, some 10,000 new and additional employees have been recruited to the public sector.
It is estimated that more than 500 employees leave the public sector every year, either through resignations or having reached pensionable age, a process known as natural wastage. This means that at least 5,000 new jobs have been created within the public sector, over and above the 10,000 new, additional state employees.
The bulging public sector is leading to around an estimated €200 million in salaries annually. But this does not represent the whole picture since thousands more are being put on the state payroll through various schemes and contracts.
These include the so-called Community Workers Scheme, where some 1,000 people registering for work were given full-time government employment even though they are considered to be working for the private sector – the General Workers’ Union foundation.
Thousands more are employed through private companies that have received government contracts.
These include thousands of security personnel, health sector workers, contract workers, cleaners, Gozo Channel personnel and private sector workers stationed at other government entities against contracts.
In the meantime, the country is experiencing record debt levels, which will soon hit the €9 billion mark and Finance Minister Clyde Caruana, in his Budget Speech last Monday, was already forecasting an even larger deficit for the coming year.