What does public sector UK look like? As public workers prepare for major industrial action next week, the Office for National Statistics has published a detailed set of data showing the percentages of people in each are who are part of the sector.
The data shows that 12 local authorities across the UK employ over a quarter of the local workforce – in one area, Copeland, 52% of all employees work in the public sector.
Across the UK, the figures show that 23% of all employees work for the public sector – a rate of 17.7% of the working-age population of 16 to 64 year-olds. Because it’s collected differently, it does not match the public sector figures which come out as part of the Labour Force Survey each month – they show a figure of 20.7% of the workforce. This is more comprehensive than the last time this data was released, for 2008.
The fact is, the number of public sector workers has fallen under Labour and now the Liberal-Conservative coalition – down from 23.1% in 1992, when John Major was prime minister. And that’s despite a rise after 2008 when banks were nationalised.
The analysis is based on two major surveys – the Annual Population Survey (APS), where people are asked who they work for, and the Business Register Employment Survey. The key figure the ONS have used is the employment rate, the number of people asked in the APS who they work for – although it doesn’t cover Northern Ireland. The ONS admits:
This survey slightly over estimates public sector employment
Either way, it presents a fascinating insight into public sector employment around the UK. The key data is:
• Eight areas have low employment in public and private sectors: Bradford, Leicester, Newham, Nottingham, Salford, Sandwell, Walsall, and Wolverhampton
• Public sector employment rates are generally above the average across most Scotland and Wales. In Scotland, they are highest in the Highlands and Islands, where “public sector employment is higher due to the service provision needs of remote rural areas/island communities”
• The ONS says there is no north-south divide in England: “there are plenty of local authorities in the southern half of England with above average public sector employment rates and plenty of local authorities in the northern half of England with below average public sector employment rates”
• In contrast, many local authorities with above average private sector employment are clustered in the south of the country, particularly to the north and west of London. Clusters of local authorities with below average private sector employment rates are found in the Midlands and North
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