Victoria looks to cut costs as states and territories’ public workforces grow

By Jackson Graham

Thursday November 18, 2021

Victoria had the biggest increase in public servants last year
Victoria had the biggest increase in public servants last year. (Treasury Gardens, Melbourne. Adobe/Greg Brave)

The number of public service employees in states and territories is climbing while employment in federal and local government is steadying, with the Victorian government having the biggest growth among public sector workforces. 

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics report of the public sector’s employment and earnings shows growth among state governments jumped by 53,300 employees (3.3%) in the 2020-21 financial year. 

The number of public servants employed by state governments — about 1.6 million people — far outnumbers the 247,600 employed by the federal government, and the 190,800 working in local government throughout Australia. 

Numbers employed by the federal government only increased 0.6% last year, while local government overall saw a 2.5% growth in workforces. 

Victoria had the biggest increase in public servants last year, with the workforce growing by about 18,400 people. This was closely followed by the NSW public service, which increased by 9300 workers. 

In Victoria, the increase saw the state’s total spending on wages increase from about $32.5 billion to $35.4 billion. 

It comes as the Victorian government is in the process of briefing unions and departments on initiatives it is taking to save costs and reprioritise funding. 

Asked about the growth, a Victorian government spokesperson told The Mandarin: “We make no apologies for hiring the extra staff needed to keep Victorians safe during the pandemic”. 

Victorian government data shows the overall profile of the VPS has not significantly changed despite the boost in numbers, with a small increase in the ongoing employment in the sector. 

The Victorian Budget also included $3.7 billion worth of “reprioritisation measures” to ensure public investment was being directed at the projects and services most needed. 

The Mandarin understands the prioritising measures are focused on reducing back-office costs and spending on consultants, with the government aiming not to impact essential services or promises it made to voters. 

“Departments are currently putting in place a range of savings and efficiencies to ensure the Victorian Public Service remains effectively aligned with government priorities,” the government’s spokesman said. 

“The VPS leadership is working closely with its workforce, unions and other relevant stakeholders to support staff and minimise the impact of any changes.”


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