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Public sector employment is at 70-year low, says GMB report

Public sector employment has fallen to a 70-year low in terms of share of the labour market, the GMB union has said, with the loss of just under a million public sector jobs since 2010.

The GMB union said the share was now 16.9%, the lowest it had been since 1947, the year before the NHS was founded. The figure did not fall below 20% even during Margaret Thatcher’s premiership, it said.

A new report by the union also accused the government of ignoring 55% of public sector workers not covered by a pay review body, including some local government workers and school support staff.

Rehana Azam, GMB’s national secretary for public services, accused the government of “dragging us back to the dark days of the past”.

“These shocking figures are a stark reminder of the scale of the catastrophe that is befalling our public services,” she said. “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.”

The report said central government had removed an estimated £5bn from local authority budgets in order to enforce the pay cap across the whole public sector.

It said that the cost of agency and temporary workers – driven by recruitment worries – had increased by £2.5bn since 2012-13, rather than the cap saving money.

A Treasury spokesman said: “More people are in work than ever before as firms across the country keep expanding and hiring more people.

“Since 2010, the government has taken the tough decisions needed to put our public finances on a sound footing while protecting funding for the NHS, seeing crime fall and the number of good schools increase.”

The government said that for every job lost in the public sector since 2010, eight new jobs had been created in the private sector.