UK civil service faces further job cuts; call to hike Canadian public service’s bilingual bonus: management and workforce news in brief

By on 31/03/2022 | Updated on 31/03/2022
HM Treasury, the UK's finance ministry
HM Treasury, the UK's finance ministry. Photo by falco via Pixabay

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

UK Treasury minister hints at further civil service job cuts

The UK civil service could face six years of job cuts after a senior Treasury minister indicated that cuts in the number of officials could continue until 2029.

Simon Clarke, the chief secretary to the Treasury who is responsible for public spending, set out in a speech this week plans for what he called a “quiet revolution” in government spending after the extraordinary period of the coronavirus pandemic response.

Among the changes he indicated were further cuts to civil service job numbers. Clarke said the UK civil service headcount is up 23% from 2015/16, and by almost 7% in 2021 alone, something that he said is “impossible to justify long-term”.

The Spending Review held last October has already committed to “reducing non-frontline civil service headcount to 2019-20 levels by 2024-25”, although no definition of “non-frontline” official has been released by the Treasury.

Clarke said this represented “a starting point” to likely reductions, with further cuts likely in the Spending Review that follows, kicking in from April 2025.

“Through a scrupulous focus on efficiencies, more streamlined processes, and a better matching of our people to our priorities, we will bring civil service headcount down to sustainable levels for the longer term, and this will be a focus of the years leading up to the next Spending Review,” he said.

“The reality is that some growth in the civil service was required to deliver Brexit and our Covid response… but over the next Spending Review I want to see headcount levels fall back towards where they were before what were very much out-of-the-ordinary events.”

Read more: UK civil service urged to develop workforce plan before making up to 55,000 job cuts

Canadian officials should get bigger bilingual bonus, says union

The Public Service Alliance of Canada has called on the bilingual bonus that is paid to public servants who are able to speak both French and English, should be nearly doubled to C$1,500 (US$1,199).

The union made the call as the Canadian government begins a reform of the Official Languages Act, which is intended to boost the status of French in the public service by giving the Commissioner of Official Languages the power to impose financial penalties in certain cases.

However, the union said that the plan “lacks the teeth and vision needed to protect the French language in Canada and promote bilingualism across the federal public service”.

It called for the bilingual bonus – an annual payment of C$800 (US$639) paid to employees with their salary of they occupy a bilingual position and pass an evaluation to confirm they meet the language requirements – to increase to C$1,500.

“Bilingualism is a skill that should be encouraged in the federal public service,” the union said. “Yet the bilingual bonus for federal workers has been just C$800 since the early 1990s. That’s why PSAC is proposing to increase the bilingual allowance to C$1,500 in negotiations with 165,000 federal public service workers, and to expand the allowance to Indigenous languages. If the government is serious about supporting official languages, the bilingualism bonus should be increased.”

Read more: The growing friction between bilingualism and other forms of inclusion in Canada

Public servants ‘favour of COVID-19 vaccine mandates by small margin’

A slim majority of public and civil servants are in favour of coronavirus vaccine mandates for government employees, a poll of nearly 4,000 officials by Global Government Forum has revealed.

However, the results demonstrate just how divisive the issue is, with 49% of civil and public servants agree with the case for mandates while 45.3% disagree.

These survey gathered nearly 4,000 responses from civil servants in 10 countries – Canada, the US, UK, New Zealand, Italy, Mexico, Australia, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, and Colombia.

Of the five countries with the most survey respondents (100 or more each) – Canada, the US, the UK, New Zealand, and Italy – New Zealand was the most supportive of vaccine mandates for government employees with 58.9% of public servants agreeing with the measure, and 34.9% disagreeing.

While respondents in the other four countries are more evenly split on whether or not they support mandates, the US had the highest number of respondents who disagreed with them, at 46.2%.

Read more: Exclusive: public servants in favour of COVID-19 vaccine mandates by small margin, GGF survey finds

Former Microsoft and McKinsey executives set to lead Japan civil service reform

Two female corporate leaders are expected to usher in a new merit-based system in the Japanese civil service, marking a break from its traditional emphasis on seniority and length of employment.

Katsura Ito, chief learning officer at Microsoft Japan, and Yuko Kawamoto, an ex-McKinsey consultant, have been appointed to senior roles on the promise to galvanise Japan’s bureaucracy into an institution fit for modern public service. They will serve together in Japan’s National Personnel Authority (NPA), the agency which formulates recommendations on issues from civil service pay and working conditions to hiring guidelines.

Ito received approval to become a commissioner of the NPA from Japan’s lower house of parliament last week and could receive the go-ahead from the country’s National Diet by the end of the month. The NPA is led by Kawamoto, who, as a former McKinsey consultant and Ito’s appointment means two of the agency’s three commissioners will be women who have worked for American companies.

Read more: Former Microsoft and McKinsey executives set to lead Japan civil service reform

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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