Queensland budget: why the state kept public sector jobs growth

By Harley Dennett

Wednesday June 13, 2018

The Murdoch press has been gunning for cuts to public sector jobs in the Queensland Palaszczuk government over several years now — without success.

Yesterday, State Treasurer Jackie Trad (pictured) made her rebuttal in this year’s budget papers explaining why the public sector wage bill needed to jump by almost $1 billion.

The total Queensland public sector salaries bill will be $23.8 billion in 2018-19, around $969 million or 4.2% more on the previous year’s estimated actual.

Employee expenses account for approximately 40% of total expenses, with the increased cost reflecting both an increase in employees, as measured by full time equivalents (FTEs), and higher wages for those employees from the government’s 2.5% wages policy. For comparison, the total growth in government expenses between between 2016-17 and 2021-22 is forecast to rise at an average annual rate of 2.9% per year.

The Palaszczuk government has adopted a fiscal principle, the papers explain, to maintain a sustainable public service by ensuring that overall growth in FTEs, on average over the forward estimates, does not exceed public population growth.

“FTEs are estimated to increase by around 3,833 (or 1.71%) in 2018-19, with the majority of the increase being attributable to growth in health and education. Average FTE growth over the forward estimates period from 2017-18 to 2021-22 is 1.71%. This compares to an estimated Queensland population growth of 1¾% annually.”

FTE growth is moderating

The below chart shows actual FTEs from 2005-06 to 2016-17 and estimated FTEs from 2017-18 to 2021-22.

The government’s election commitments put a high priority on frontline jobs — teacher aides, nurses, police officers, etc. — and that’s where a lot of the additional FTEs will continue to be allocated.

Around 32% of FTEs are located outside the metropolitan South East Queensland, “consistent with population share”, the government notes. But it acknowledged that the devolved frontline service delivery models used in some agencies — where agencies themselves determine how to most effectively deliver services — makes it difficult to estimate and monitor FTE allocation.

Better data to drive decision-making

The Queensland Public Service Commission will continue to collect agency workforce data on a quarterly basis for analysis and reporting purposes, the papers say, to ensure ongoing monitoring of the government’s new fiscal principle.

They’re not pretending it’s been an easy job, so the PSC, with support from Queensland Treasury, have been working on strategies to reduce inconsistencies and improve the quality of their data.

“The Government acknowledges that there are still limitations surrounding the use of the MOHRI data. The key limitation of the MOHRI methodology is the inconsistency with how employee expenses are accounted for and monitored in agencies. Further, the complexity of the MOHRI methodology means that data on FTEs is not readily available in a timely fashion.”

Priorities to improve the quality of information include:

  • enhancing data collection, reporting and monitoring of indirect employment, such as the
    use of labour hire, contractors and consultants
  • working with agencies to improve geographical reporting, including by postcode
    reviewing the contents of the Workforce Profile reports to assess whether they are meeting the needs of users or whether further opportunities exist to provide tailored reporting, to be reported on by the 2018-19 MYFER
  • reviewing occupational codes to identify whether any additional key occupational groups exist which should be reported upon.

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