The Workforce Is Here. In Public Offices.

Slovak companies are trying to deal with the pertaining lack of workers in several distinct ways. They are desperately flicking through the official lists of the relatively large army of the unemployed. Foreign workers are being imported en masse. Students and pensioners are being hired. And when nothing else is helping anymore, businesses limit their production or sales periods.

But we have an elegant solution that could soothe the problem of the deficiency of qualified workforce right at our doorstep. Transposing part of the population currently working in the public sector to employment in the private sphere could offer a fitting way out of this imbalanced conundrum. The elegance of this proposition lies in its immediate ability to solve several pressing problems at the same time, problems that we have been unable to resolve for a while now. These include the boosting of the workforce offer, cutting red tape and an overall increase in efficiency.

The government has the power to untie this Gordian knot. Private businesses are unable to reach out to people “hiding” in the comfort of a public office. The government must give the green light to the transfer of a larger workforce from the public sphere to the private sector. These people will not voluntarily enter the precarious labour market. This is not to imply that they are lazy good-for-nothings impatiently awaiting retirement. Rather, we are talking about a crop of skilled and laborious workers, with 80% of them being under the age of 55. The problem is the disproportionately large number of such individuals. Within the EU, Slovakia is close to having the most bureaucrats in relation to its general population. Decreasing their numbers by 20-30% should therefore be a logical task amounting to no more than a drop in the bucket.

Policemen, firemen, medical staff in hospitals and teachers all constitute employment in the public sector. Flatly reducing their numbers could collide with the population´s fear of a further decline in the already miserable quality of public services. Our primary ambition should thus be a cutback on the number of bureaucrats on all levels of public administration, including local governments. Those who stand in opposition to such reductions often voice their concern with regards to the growing volume of the agenda public servants and officials are required to deal with. Decreasing the amount of public administrators and officials should therefore go hand in hand with a corresponding cutback on the size of the agenda that will be administered by the remaining public workers. Fewer bureaucrats could mean higher salaries in the public sector. Decreasing the quantity could aid the government in attracting more quality.

Such brave measures would carry an appreciable knock-on effect in directly increasing the effectiveness of our economy. An employee sitting behind a desk in one of our many government departments, public offices or agencies represents a potential problem, as they are part of a large army, charging forward with the ultimate goal of acquiring more legal powers and competences, more ink on their stamps and more administrative status and importance. If that very same person migrates to the realm of the public sector, two positive developments will occur simultaneously. The power of the bureaucratic army will be weakened while the capacities of the private sphere will be augmented. This would be a welcome boost for the private regiments, as they need more support in creating enough revenue to nurture both sectors.

It is misleading to say that we have completely drained our workforce. A relatively qualified crop of workers is still here, in relatively high numbers. However, it is considerably misplaced. In government offices and public agencies. Any sensible government should strive to create conditions for a hassle-free transfer of this workforce to the private sector. If this miracle ever does happen, it will have magical consequences for our economy and the population as a whole.

Ján Oravec 

(Translated by Edward Szekeres)

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