The Malta Independent 26 November 2022, Saturday
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TMID Editorial: Public sector employment

Monday, 26 September 2022, 16:24 Last update: about 3 months ago

We’ve heard businesses complain about government taking employees from the private sector all before.

Too many people in government jobs means that there is a labour shortage in the private sector.

Teachers and healthcare workers are essential of course, and nobody should criticise the number of workers in such sectors. In fact, there is still a shortage of nurses for instance, which is something one hopes can be remedied in the immediate future.

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But there is over-employment in other sectors. One just needs to take a look at Air Malta over the years to have heard of the countless criticism of over employment.

In an interview with The Malta Independent on Sunday, CEO of the Malta Chamber of SMEs Abigail Agius Mamo said that the government taking employees away from the private sector is  a ‘significant problem’.

We received many reports from our members saying we need to do something about this as it is very frustrating. It's already very difficult for businesses to cope with the lack of human resources, having to try and retain in all the ways possible. But competing with the government is a totally different ball game. Businesses cannot offer the same conditions that government offers. And now, post-election, we are hearing about the issues that the big recruitment before and during the election caused - sustainability of finances, too many resources in certain entities and certain government companies,” she said.

In November 2021, we saw the Malta Employers’ Association, The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, the Malta Chamber of SMEs, the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association and the Gozo Business Chamber call on government to put an immediate halt on the drain of human resources from the private sector, to be employed in the public sector including state appointed bodies. This was months before a general election was to take place.

“More and more members of these organisations are voicing their concern about employees who resign haphazardly to take up what is perceived to be a more secure job with less work pressure in government entities,” they had said.  “The business organisations stated that they are convinced that, in many cases, there is no real need for these persons in the public sector. It must be borne in mind that public sector employment is financed by the output and taxes generated by entrepreneurs and their employees, and depleting the private sector of human resources will spell trouble even for tax revenue generation,” they said in a press statement in November 2021.

If all those business organisations had highlighted this issue, there must be some truth behind it. It is a problem probably faced under every government.

The government should conduct a review of all public sector jobs and those jobs that are unnecessary should be cut. After all, this is our taxpayer funds being spent, and such funds should be spent wisely. This is especially the case now when every penny counts.

But, of course, from a political standpoint, any government would be highly reluctant to do this.

The Chamber of SMEs proposed a secondment plan, whereby government would pay the wages of such seconded employees to the private sector for a couple of years, to wean them off public sector employment. The argument being that government would not just cut public sector jobs.

This could be one way around it sure, but the issue then becomes taxpayer money funding private sector employment.

With regard to the employment of foreign employees, the issue is that it takes too long, Agius Mamo had told this newsroom. If this could be expedited perhaps it could alleviate some of the pressures businesses face.

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