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[Editorial] Increasing Civil Servant Posts Not a Viable Job Solution

[Editorial] Increasing Civil Servant Posts Not a Viable Job Solution

Posted July. 16, 2005 03:05,   


Prime minister Lee Hae-chan announced, “The number of civil servants should be increased to reduce unemployment and expand public service,” saying “The proportion of civil servants in Korea is only 40-50 percent that of Japan and Europe.” It means that he intends to create many positions for quasi-civil servants who are entitled to fewer privileges than ordinary civil servants in order to expand the government’s role while avoiding inflexibility in the administrative personnel structure. His proposed solution for creating jobs should be reviewed more carefully given that the already sluggish economy could become even more ineffective due to the sprawling inefficient public sector.

The number of civil servants, which stood at 890,000 in late 2002, jumped 46,000 to 936,000 in only two years. If the government implements a new policy to expand its workforce dramatically, it will cause more adverse side effects such as growing tax burdens on people, even though it may bring down the unemployment rate temporarily.

Increasing the number of civil servants can’t solve the unemployment issue fundamentally. It is more likely to aggravate the situation and reduce the total number of jobs by dampening the vitality of the private sector. Furthermore, the size of the civil servant community will never go back to where it was once it has become bigger. Their employers or the Korean people will end up paying their wages until their retirement limit, making for lower productivity and efficiency. Job counselors at employment security centers, who are hired as quasi-civil servants, enjoy great job security as well. They can continue to work until they reach 57 years old unless they cause a serious problem at work. And the quasi-civil servant hiring system can’t make the public sector employment flexible. It only creates and passes the burden onto tax payers.

It is better to get a necessary workforce to meet the growing needs for public welfare services such as childcare and senior citizen care through a restructuring of the existing workforce. That’s how the government can not only meet growing welfare needs, but also enhance the efficiency of the public sector.

Nations across the world are pursuing smaller and more efficient government. New Zealand has reduced the number of civil servants in the transportation ministry from 4,200 to 45. Japan has streamlined the central government structure from the previous one ministry and 22 bureaus to one ministry and 12 bureaus. Those are reform initiatives based on the recognition that a government’s inefficiency and red tape undermine a nation’s growth. Short cuts in creating new jobs are energizing the private sector.