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UK – Public sector reduces headcount but finds it difficult to recruit

20 June 2012

Unemployment in the three months to April dropped by 51,000 to 2.61 million, taking the jobless rate to 8.2% as the latest figures by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show.

 However, the number of people employed in the public sector in Q1 fell by 39,000 down to 5.90 million, the lowest figure in over nine years.  UK local government decreased headcount by 33,000, UK central government employment decreased by 1,000 and employment in UK public corporations decreased by 5,000.  Civil Service employment in the country also dropped by 7,000 to 464,000.

Ironically, a separate survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and Hays Resourcing has found that public sector organisations are encountering increased problems in recruiting and retaining staff, particularly at a senior level.

According to the survey, 82% of over 500 employers surveyed reported difficulties in filling at least some vacancies over the past few months. And the recruitment of managers and senior level staff within the sector appears to be a particular problem as 38% found it difficult to fill vacancies at manager and specialist levels while 19% reported problems with finding candidates for senior manager and director level roles.

This may be due to pay freezes combined with a perceived reduction in benefits as a consequence of pension reforms as 43% of public sector employers cited pay as one of the reasons for their difficulties.

The public sector was also more likely than private sector services to report image problems adding to the problem of attracting new recruits.

“The image of the public sector is putting off some new recruits. This, coupled with widespread pay freezes and pension reform, makes jobs in public sector organisations less and less appealing to those individuals who have the skills required for the vacancies,” said Rebecca Clake, Research Adviser at CIPD.

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