Public sector employment losing popularity

The public sector has plummeted in popularity as an employer and is losing its sparkle as a place to work, research revealed today.

The poll of more than 500 private sector staff by recruitment agency Hays found that fewer than 38% would consider next working for either local or central government or the NHS. This is a drop of more than a third on the Hays survey in February 2009, where 72% stated they were considering a move to the public sector.

The Private to Public Perceptions Survey 2010 also indicated a hardening of attitudes towards the value of work. Last year, 42% of respondents thought the public sector was more ethically and morally rewarding – that figure slumped to just 21% in the latest study. Too much bureaucracy and lack of dynamism were cited as reasons why the public sector was unattractive.

Meanwhile, the study found that the search for job stability is markedly less important this year as a driver of career change (50%), compared to 2009 (73%).

Andy Robling, public services director of Hays, said: “People are feeling more confident about the private sector as we move out of recession, and less about the public as we move into an era that anticipates significant job cuts in the sector.

“There are clearly going to be challenging times ahead and although some jobs are going to go, the likelihood is that others will be created. We see a considerable need for people who are able to manage change, and the trend towards private sector involvement will continue as services are increasingly outsourced over the next two or three years.”

Clare Kelliher, reader in work and organisation at Cranfield School of Management, was not surprised by the findings. “In recessionary times the public sector initially is seen as a haven in some sense with job security and, generally speaking, a good set of conditions of employment,” she told Personnel Today.

“With all the stories we have had in the news in recent times about the type of restructuring that will happen in public sector and deficits, time wise I am not surprised. You expect a time lag when the pressure would hit the public sector.

“I’m quite interested in the finding about job security. In many senses that’s a sign of the times. People have bided their time as maybe that became more important as recession hit in the first instance. That only lasts so long.”

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