The Spanish government has made a significant correction in the counting of its public sector employees. Following a comprehensive review of the methodology, it has been revealed that there are nearly 300,000 more civil servants than previously estimated.
As a result, the total number of public sector workers has risen to a historic high of three million. This correction comes after an update to the statistical bulletin of personnel in public administrations by Función Pública. For the first time, it now includes workers with contracts of less than six months and personnel in training. The change in methodology is a part of the administrative reform the government agreed upon with Brussels. Furthermore, it reflects a more accurate picture of the true size of the government apparatus.
Significant increase due to methodological change
The new calculation includes an increase of 224,000 employees in the state and autonomous communities due to the inclusion of temporary staff with short-term contracts, and an increase of 70,000 employees in training or internships. This adjustment reveals the true scope of the public sector in Spain. Until now it had been underestimated in official figures.
The reality of Spanish public sector employment
The new figures now more closely align with the data from the Labour Force Survey (EPA) regarding public sector workers. The discrepancy between the EPA and the personnel bulletin had always been strikingly high. However, now there seems to be more concordance between the two sources. This strengthens the image of a more extensive and complex public sector than previously thought.
Need for reforms
The revelation of these ‘hidden’ public sector workers exposes an urgent need for reform, especially in sectors such as healthcare and education. Many healthcare workers, for example, have had long-term temporary contracts that were not recognised in the old methodology. This situation points to a structural issue within the Spanish government, where prolonged temporariness and aging workforces are prevalent.
Response of unions
Unions emphasise that the new figures are not indicative of newly created jobs, but rather a correction of existing data. They highlight the challenges facing the public sector, such as the aging of the workforce and job losses in certain sectors since 2013. They also stress the need for further growth of public services and improvements in working conditions and stability.
Role of minister Escrivá
Minister José Luis Escrivá, now responsible for negotiating employment offers and salary increases within the public sector, faces significant challenges. The unions are waiting to see how Escrivá will tackle this task, given previous tensions in social dialogue. His role will be crucial in shaping the future of the Spanish public sector, including digital transformation and modernization of government operations.