Government’s intention to lay off public sector workers

| Updated Aug 09, 2017 at 6:00pm


Senior Minister, Yaw Osafo Maafo has disclosed that government does not have the capacity to employ more public servants.



Reports that government is considering cutting down the workforce in the public sector has sent shivers down the spine of most public sector workers across the country. The statement has generated anxiety with workers wondering what government's intention is on the matter. The Senior Minister Yaw Osafo Marfo is reported to have stated at a Forum in Accra that “the public sector is full and government is even contemplating laying off some workers.” The Senior Minister disclosed that government does not have the capacity to employ more public servants. He noted that graduates can only find jobs if the private sector grows, stating that if we do not get our mindset in this direction, then we are heading for trouble as a country.

The 2010 Population and Housing Census by the Ghana Statistical Service puts the entire workforce of Ghana at 9.7 million with the public sector employing 641,633. Many are questioning the rationale for the decision to reduce the workforce. One will be tempted to ask, what studies have been conducted into the performance of the public sector to arrive at this rather undesirable decision. The declaration by the Senior Minister runs contrary to the promise made to Ghanaians during the 2016 elections.

The NPP rode on the back of job creation as captured in its 2016 Manifesto dubbed “CHANGE, AN AGENDA FOR JOBS: Creating Prosperity and Equal Opportunities for All”. Is it therefore not ironic for government to be talking about job cuts seven months into office? Were the economic experts not abreast of the facts while in opposition before the numerous mouthwatering promises? What supports have been given to the private sector to stimulate growth for jobs since the government took over the management of the economy?

Well, we are aware government is rolling out plans to ensure that jobs are created from the private sector. This has seen the implementation of the ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ programme which is expected to create over 750,000 jobs and also the provision of tax incentives for private sector businesses with the aim of employing more persons. These are at the gestation period and it takes time for these interventions to yield tangible results.

The NPP sorely chastised the NDC administration for freezing employment in the public sector and accusing the NDC of kowtowing to the dictates of the International Monetary Fund, IMF. The signing onto the IMF program by the last administration saw a freeze on recruitment into the public sector as part of austerity measures to reduce budget overruns and to create space for infrastructure and economic development. Even though some window was provided for the replacement of dead or retired staff in some institutions this has been stalled for some time. What happens to state institutions which are understaffed if this decision is to be carried through.

It is a fact that there are state institutions that may be deemed overstaffed while others are understaffed. The amount government spent on wages and salaries constitutes about 44 percent of the tax revenue in 2015 and also makes up about 7.9 percent of GDP. The argument has always been that the public sector wage bill is a burden on the State.

The question is, is government aware that the Wage Bill is high because of the number of Article 71 office holders? Is government considering the huge salaries and entitlements of some CEOs of State owned enterprises as it ponders over taking this austere measure? It is however refreshing that the umbrella bodies such as the Trades Union Congress, in a number of media interviews has rejected the decision and is calling on government to clarify the pronouncement on job cuts.

The leadership of the Civil and Local Government Staff Association of Ghana CLOGSAG went to the extreme of asking government to first cut down on the number of ministers if it intends laying off workers in the public sector. CLOGSAG has indicated that it will resist any attempt by government to send workers home.

Was the Senior Minister just testing the waters as is being speculated to get public reaction on the matter? Government needs to come out to clarify the pronouncement to allay the fears of workers and douse the agitations.