Public employment as a protection from poverty

Working in preparation for the budget, I’ve been looking at some stats from the OECD.  I was interested to find out to what extent  public sector employment could be thought of as a way of protecting the economy, and that led me to the nearest approximation I could find,  “Employment in general government and public corporations“.  The figures don’t show any clear relationship to economic performance, but I wondered if they might show a different kind of effect.  Here is a table tracking the OECD’s listings of public sector employment and child poverty.

Employment in general government and public corporations Poverty among children, %, late 2000s
Norway 29.3 5.5
Denmark 28.7 3.7
Sweden 26.2 7
Finland 22.9 5.2
France 21.9 9.3
Hungary 19.5 7.3
United Kingdom 17.4 13.2
Belgium 17.1 10
Canada 16.5 14.8
Israel 16.5 18.7
Australia 15.6 14
Ireland 14.8 11
United States 14.6 21.6
Italy 14.3 12.2
Czech Republic 12.8 8.8
Spain 12.3 17.2
Portugal 12.1 18.7
Netherlands 12.0 9.6
Austria 11.4 7.2
Turkey 11.0 23.5
New Zealand 9.8 12.2
Germany 9.6 8.3
Chile 9.1 24
Mexico 8.8 25.8
Greece 7.9 13.2
Japan 6.7 14.2

There are reasons not to trust the figures here – is child poverty in the UK only 13.2%? – and simple statistics can mislead, but a correlation of the two columns comes out on Excel at -0.56, which is unusually high for social data. It does look as though public sector employment and job creation in the public sector are key elements protecting people from poverty.

One comment

  1. John Veit-Wilson.

    The reason for the low UK child poverty figure you question may be that the stats are based on the 50% of median and not the usual 60% of median. That is the implication of the table in the link to child poverty which you show. Another example why the use of the word ‘poverty’ should never be accepted without asking which of the many kinds of poverty that might be [usually income inequalities and not income inadequacy poverties].

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