SHOCK – Public Sector Employment Share Lowest for Seventy Years 


Today’s Conservatives seem intent on dragging us back to the dark days before the NHS was founded

GMB, the union for public sector workers, has published figures that show public sector employment as a share of the labour market has fallen to a seventy year low.

Official figures released this week show that 16.9 per cent of workers were employed in the public sector in June – a 0.1 per cent fall on the previous quarter.

This is the lowest share since the ONS’s current records began in 1999 – and historic Bank of England data reveals it is the lowest share since 1947, the year before the NHS was founded. [1]

Even under Margaret Thatcher the public sector’s share of employment did not fall below 20 per cent.

Just under a million public jobs have been lost since 2010 due to funding cuts, privatisation and outsourcing.

The majority of the jobs lost have been in local government. [2]

A new GMB report published this week argued Government’s review of public sector pay policy is ignoring the 55 per cent of public sector worker who are not covered by a Pay Review Body, such as local government workers and school support staff

Thre report also reveals:

.· Central Government has removed an estimated £5 billion from local authority budgets in order to enforce the pay cap across the whole public sector;

· As recruitment and retention challenges mount, the cost of agency and temporary workers has increased by £2.5 billion since 2012/13. By contrast, the Treasury estimated that the cap would save £2.2 billion in 2017/18 – raising the prospect that the cap is not saving any money at all;

· On average, PCSOs (who are not covered by the new pay award for police officers) are set to lose £9,580 in real-terms by 2020 due to the pay cap. [3]

Rehana Azam, GMB National Secretary for Public Services, said:

“These shocking figures are a stark reminder of the scale of the catastrophe that befalling our public services.

“Any sensible opportunities for efficiencies are long gone – funding reductions are now cutting into sheer bone.

“GMB’s members are performing miracles but the vital services they deliver are being stripped-back and hollowed-out and denied the resources they need, and workers are being denied the fair pay rises they deserve.

“We should celebrate the fact that people are living longer, but if services don’t get additional funding then crises of provision are inevitable. That breaking point has already arrived in the NHS and social care.

“Seventy years ago the Labour Government of Attlee and Nye Bevan created cherished public services that have improved and saved millions of lives.

“Today’s Conservatives seem intent on dragging us back to the dark days of the past instead.

“Enough is enough. We need to properly fund public services so they can cope with sharply rising demand, and real pay rises for the heroes in the workforce who sacrifice so much and are being denied the reasonable standard of living they deserve.”

Contact: GMB Press Office on 07958 156846 or at
[1] ONS, Public sector employment UK statistical bulletin: June 2017, published 13 September 2017:

Bank of England, A millennium of macroeconomic data, table A.51, updated 31 April 2017: also the complete table in note 5.

[2] Figures from the ONS June 2017 public sector employment statistical bulletin:Changes to public sector employment (headcount) by classification, seasonally adjusted (thousands)

YEAR Central government Local Government Total General Government Total public corporations Total public sector Of which: Civil Service

2010 2819 2908 5727 670 6397 517

2017 3021 2115 5136 304 5440 423

Year  Central gov  Local Gov. Total general government  Total public corporations.  Total public sector.  Of which:Civil  Service

[3] GMB, End the Public Sector Pay Pinch – Public Sector Pay and the Forgotten Three Million, 13 September 2017:

[4] Changes to public sector demand levels identified by GMB:

Adults aged over 80* 2,854,694  (2010) , 3,170,900 (2017)  Change. +  11.10%

Monthly A&E attendances** 1,752,381 (2010),  1,924,103 (2017) Change + 9.80%

Pupils in state-funded schools *** 6,929,000 (2010) , 7,490,000 (2017) Change + 8.10%

* Figures for the UK in 2010 and 2016 – the latest year for which figures are available.
** Total attendances in the month of August in England
*** Figures for England

ONS, Population Estimates for UK, England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, 22 June 2017:

NHS England, A&E Attendances and Emergency Admissions (timeseries), updated 14 September 2017:

[5] Public sector employment as a share of the overall workforce – 1937 to 2017

(data sources given in note 1):
Year.      Public sector share of employment %

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