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Where public sector job cuts are coming from so far

Publish Date
Tue, 16 Apr 2024, 4:49pm

Where public sector job cuts are coming from so far

Publish Date
Tue, 16 Apr 2024, 4:49pm

By Katie Kenny and Hamish Cardwell RNZ

Smaller agencies are making some of the deepest cuts to their workforce, according to RNZ analysis of public sector job losses to date.

Nearly 2000 jobs have gone or are set to go, according to ministry documents and trade union, the Public Service Association.

National campaigned on slashing “back-office expenditure”. Finance Minister Nicola Willis in December said she wanted to reduce public service spending by $1.5 billion annually and has asked agencies to identify savings of either 6.5 or 7.5 per cent.

Public sector job cuts

Cuts have been happening since late 2023 and more announcements are expected. But data to date suggests some of the smaller organisations have been the most affected.

The Ministry for Pacific Peoples is set to lose more than half its full-time roles; including 32 people employed and 31 vacant positions. The Ministry for Culture and Heritage is cutting more than 20 per cent of its 165 full-time roles and WorkSafe 15 per cent of its more than 600 staff.

The Productivity Commission was being axed entirely, with more than 20 staff losing their jobs.

The Ministry of Health, with more than 800 full-time staff at the end of 2023, was cutting the equivalent of 17 per cent.

How deep is each government agency cutting?

The much larger Department of Internal Affairs (with nearly 3000 staff) confirmed more than 400 of its 455 job losses came from winding up work on national water reform.

The Ministry for Primary Industries, also a large department, was cutting a tenth of its staff, with nearly 400 jobs going.

The Ministry of Education and Oranga Tamariki, with about 4500 and 5000 full-time staff respectively, are expected to release information about their plans this week.

The public service workforce comprised nearly 66,000 full-time staff at the end of 2023, according to workforce data. In the six months prior, the workforce had grown by 4 per cent. In the five years from 2017 to 2022, the average annual increase was 5 per cent.

Public service cuts

Crown entities, such as WorkSafe, Callaghan Innovation, and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa), were not captured by Public Service Commission workforce data. (In contrast to core public service departments and ministries, Crown entities function at arm’s length from the government).

Minister for Regulation David Seymour has previously indicated up to 7500 jobs could be cut.

Public policy academic Professor Jonathan Boston told RNZ in some cases, the restructuring - the most significant the country’s public service has experienced since the 1980s - will go on for “years”.

It remains unclear how some agencies will operate following such big cuts. Without plans being made public, Boston said, “we don’t know exactly what’s being lost.”

From the outside, the approach seemed to be “arbitrary.

“It’s being done very quickly. In some cases, [bosses] will find they’ve lost staff they didn’t wish to lose.”

With about 45 per cent of public servants based in the Wellington region, it was likely there would be repercussions for the private sector as well as the local property market, Boston said.


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