Sunday, 14 March 2010


Despite assurances to the contrary, Greece's public sector was still hiring quite substantial numbers of people as of the third quarter of 2009, with ca. 5,300 vacancies open.

This of course is far from the worst we've ever done. Public sector vacancies have always accounted for at least 10% of all vacancies before the global financial crisis (assuming this started in Q2 2007) and have, at times, reached truly dizzying proportions. For instance, in Q2 2005 (that was the good years, by the way) just over half of all vacancies were in the public admin sector. Note that this is by no means the total of our public sector - probably around half of the direct public sector payroll in fact.

Things are improving in at least one way, however. Further analysis of that rare beast, detailed data from our national statistics agency, suggests that our current batch of public sector vacancies are 52% professional or technical. I know that's not much, but compare it to the heady days of mid-2005, when only about 15% of vacancies were of a professional or technical nature, and we can all breathe a bitter sigh of relief.

... or can we? Perhaps the public sector is simply out to soak up staff in whichever occupations happen to not be in demand at the time. Note that when the percentage of professional and technical vacancies isn't around 50% it is around 20%. Surely a big change for a country that is not experiencing massive upheaval. Or - even worse - it is the political cycle at play.

My stats tell me that public admin vacancies tend to be more professional or technical in nature when they account for a smaller percentage of total vacancies. The correlation is even tighter if instead of looking at the share of public admin vacancies we look at their absolute number. Simply put, when it is looking to hire only a few people, the public sector hires managers and professionals, while when it is hiring en masse, i.e. in the bad times, it hires clerks and other administrative occupations. The best fit for the relationship, based on Excel's modest capabilities, appears to be an exponential equation. Ouch!!!

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