In her Budget column today, Janet Albrechtsen makes the following claim:
NSW has about 380,000 state and local public servants servicing a population of 6.7 million people. And that’s not counting more than 40,000 public servants working in government-owned businesses. With a population of about four million, that should mean that New Zealand should have about 225,000 public servants. Right?
Wrong. According to Statistics New Zealand, our cousins across the Tasman have fewer than 69,000 public servants. That’s one public servant for every 58 New Zealanders, compared with one NSW public servant for every 17.5 NSW residents. The comparison only gets worse when you realise the NZ figure includes almost 12,000 defence force personnel and other public servants who, in Australia, would be working for the federal Government.
I’m too busy to check myself, but this seems highly implausible to me. NZ seems to have much the same mix of public and private schools and hospitals as Australia, and presumably local councils perform much the same range of tasks (maybe with a bit more contracting out). Can anyone do a factoid check here?
Update 2:31 pm An amazing team of unpaid factoid checkers has solved the puzzle almost immediately and the answer is “The number you first thought of”. According to the NZ government,
The public service makes up a small proportion of total state sector employment, as measured by Statistics NZ. In 2004 the Public Service made up only 14 per cent of the 275,000 state sector jobs
suggesting that, after netting out people doing federal government jobs, the NZ and NSW public sectors are almost identical in size, relative to the population. Albrechtsen’s entire piece is based on a difference in statistical classifications. Thanks to everyone who helped dig out the facts.
The obvious question is, if readers of this blog can find this kind of thing out for free, and in a matter of minutes, why is Albrechtsen getting paid for not bothering to make such obvious checks?
A couple of commenters have suggested emailing and asking for a retraction, and anyone who wants to do so is welcome to. My past experience with such things is that any correction is so grudging and qualified as to be worthless, but maybe Albrechtsen will surprise us.