Canadian public service will not return to pre-COVID headcount; IRS to develop more diverse workforce: management & workforce news in brief

By on 13/04/2023 | Updated on 13/04/2023
The Connaught Building in Ottawa, Canada, which houses the Canada Revenue Agency headquarters. Photo by Onasill - Bill Badzo via Flickr under Creative Commons License

Global Government Forum’s digest of the news you need to know but might have missed.

Canadian public service will not return to pre-pandemic size under departmental plans

The size of the Canadian federal public service will have peaked at 428,000 in the last financial year, according to figures from the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) – but the headcount is not forecast to return to pre-COVID levels.

The PBO last week published its projections for the federal government headcount, based on 2023-24 departmental plans. It found that the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) staff is expected to have reached 428,000 in the 2022-23 financial year, which ended at the end of March. This represented an increase of 23,000 FTEs compared to last year’s plans, with most of the headcount increase coming from three departments: the Canada Revenue Agency, Employment and Social Development Canada, and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

The number of FTEs are projected to decline, falling year-on-year to 400,000 in 2025-26. However, this projected decline still leaves the number of FTEs well above the pre-pandemic headcount of 382,000 in 2019-20.

The PBO analysis also highlighted that the current plans do not include additional FTEs that will likely result from new measures announced by the government in its 2023 Budget, which amount to C$57bn in (net) new spending over 2022-23 to 2027-28.

Read more: 9% three-year pay rise recommended for Canadian public servants – as strike ballot gets underway

US Internal Revenue Service to boost recruitment with focus on ‘more diverse workforce’

The US federal government’s Internal Revenue Service has set out plans to “attract, retain, and empower a highly skilled, diverse workforce” as part of its strategic operating plan.

The IRS, which collects taxation from US citizens and enforces the rules, has set out the details of its plan after it was allocated money as part of the Inflation Reduction Act.

The strategy said that the estimated US$80bn in funding allocated as part of the legislation presents “a historic opportunity to transform the administration of the tax system and the services provided to taxpayers”.

The document stated: “We will transform service to taxpayers by using this long-term funding to update technology capabilities and invest in our employees with new tools, skills, and capabilities. These resources will also ensure the fairness of the tax system by addressing the tax gap – the difference between taxes due and taxes paid – most recently estimated at US$496bn.”

The strategy sets out five objectives for its transformation:

  • Dramatically improve services to help taxpayers meet their obligations and receive the tax incentives for which they are eligible.
  • Quickly resolve taxpayer issues when they arise.
  • Focus expanded enforcement on taxpayers with complex tax filings and high-dollar noncompliance to address the tax gap.
  • Deliver cutting-edge technology, data, and analytics to operate more effectively.
  • Attract, retain, and empower a highly skilled, diverse workforce and develop a culture that is better equipped to deliver results for taxpayers.

According to GovExec, IRS officials said this last point would lead to the recruitment of about 30,000 employees over the next two years.

Read more: Biden administration tables ambitious anti-COVID fraud legislation

Australian central bank chief warns of inflation impact of public service pay rises

The governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia has warned that high public service pay settlements could lead to higher inflation and higher interest rates.

In comments following a National Press Club speech in Sydney last week, Philip Lowe said that “if we are going to have much higher aggregate wage growth, we’ll have higher inflation and we’ll have higher interest rates”.

The comments come as public service trade unions take part in pay bargaining with the Australian government, with the Community and Public Sector Union having called for a 20% pay hike over three years.

“It’s really important we don’t develop a pattern here where wages and prices chase one another. If they do, then inflation will become entrenched and we’ll have to have higher interest rates,” Lowe said.

According to The Mandarin, Lowe said he was not referring to any specific pay settlement.

“At the moment, wages growth is around 3.5%. That’s perfectly OK, but countries that are experiencing 5% aggregate wage growth — they have to have higher interest rates. So that’s the choice as a society we face,” Lowe said.

Read more: New Zealand lifts public service pay freeze

UK civil servants’ pay satisfaction drops dramatically, official survey shows

Only a quarter of UK officials believe their pay adequately reflects their performance, according to the government’s latest UK Civil Service People Survey – the lowest score in 14 years.

The results of the 2022 survey, which were published by the Cabinet Office last week, show that 26.7% of civil servants felt their pay was adequate. This is down 11.7 percentage points on 2021 and is the lowest pay satisfaction score since the survey began in 2009.

In the latest survey – which was taken by just under 347,000 officials between September and October 2022 – only 33.9% of respondents said they were satisfied with their pay and benefits package. This is a fall of 11.4 points on the previous year and the lowest score since 2017. The overall pay and benefits score was 27.6%. 

Less than half (42.3%) of respondents said they wanted to stay in their organisation “for at least the next three years”, with the majority (54.0%) citing the reason as wanting a better pay and benefits package.

Read in full: UK civil servants’ pay satisfaction drops dramatically, official survey shows

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About Richard Johnstone

Richard Johnstone is the executive editor of Global Government Forum, where he helps to produce editorial analysis and insight for the title’s audience of public servants around the world. Before joining GGF, he spent nearly five years at UK-based title Civil Service World, latterly as acting editor, and has worked in public policy journalism throughout his career.

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