Employment experts have cast doubt over Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) predictions that half a million public sector jobs could be shed over the next five years as the new government begins to tackle the £167bn deficit.
The CIPD said its analysis of the three main political party election manifestos concluded that it is “probable” that the 5.8 million core public sector workforce will be reduced by 10% by 2015. This figure could be even higher in the event of a Conservative victory, chief economic adviser John Philpott said.
But Nigel Meager, director of the Institute of Employment Studies, said that, while the CIPD was right to draw attention to the fact that public sector employment will fall after the election, it is “wrong to try and quantify this with dramatic claims of half a million job losses”.
“None of the parties’ spending reduction plans contain nearly enough detail of where and when they will wield the axe for us to be able to conclude this,” he told Personnel Today.
Previous experience suggests that politicians, particularly from opposition parties, tend to overestimate the scope for job loss through efficiency gains, rather than underestimate them, according to Meager. “Once in office, they find it much harder to secure these gains, and realise they cannot deliver many of their own pet policies while cutting headcount dramatically,” he said.
Meager also dismissed the CIPD’s claim that it was “misleading” to suggest that the volume of likely job losses in the public sector could be eased by a combination of pay cuts or short-time working. “These are precisely the areas where early reductions in public payroll costs are likely to be most feasible, along with recruitment freezes,” he said.
Alan Warner, lead officer on communications at the Public Sector People Managers’ Association, described the CIPD’s prediction as “speculative”.
“There is no doubt that there are challenging times ahead and all organisations are doing all they can to mitigate the impact on services and jobs,” he said. “The numbers of any possible job reductions have not been quantified, and we therefore view the figure suggested by the CIPD as speculative.”