For years governments have attempted to cut costs and improve efficiency, in part by subcontracting jobs to the private sector, from IT services to catering, as well as cutting the public sector payroll. The size of public sector employment today represents between 5% and 28% of the workforce in most OECD countries. Between 1995 and 2005, the numbers seem to have been broadly stable, though with falls in the eight countries in our chart, except for the Netherlands and Spain, which recorded a slight rise. In Canada, public sector employment stagnated though the overall workforce grew in size.
Public administration is a bigger employer than public sector companies in all cases, and indeed in Spain the workforce in the latter has declined. Except for a few countries, and in particular for the Netherlands and France, employment in public corporations is a relatively minor part of the labour force.
Taking both administration and industry together, Sweden had the highest proportion, at 31% of the labour force, whereas Korea had the lowest, with 7%. Over 20% of the labour force worked in the public sector in Sweden, France and the Netherlands.
The State of the Public Service 2008 is available at www.oecd.org/bookshop, ISBN 978-92-64-05594-0
For more on OECD's employment work, www.oecd.org/employment
©OECD Observer No. 272, April 2009