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Wednesday, October 10, 2012







Is the Malaysian civil service really bloated ?


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Some nitwits have been going around town saying that the Malaysians civil service is bloated. They claim that Malaysia has the world’s highest ratio of civil servants to the population? And in this country we have many dungus who are quick to believe any shit that they read on the internet and newspapers.

Is it true that the Malaysians civil service is bloated?


So I decided to check the data myself. The place to get good data on employment/ labour, etc for all countries is the International Labour Organization (ILO). The ILO is a tripartite UN agency with government, employer, and worker representatives. It has 185 countries as its members. You can check out its website or you can go to Geneva and visit its office.

The ILO database has data on the number of people employed in the public sector for most countries. Of course we have to be careful with what we mean by public service – so that we compare apples to apples. The ILO database defines the total public sector employment as all employment of general government sector plus employment of publicly owned enterprises and companies, resident and operating at central, state (or regional) and local levels of government. It covers all persons employed directly by those institutions, without regard for the particular type of employment contract (you can read more here)

By taking the total number of public sector employees from the ILO database and dividing it by the population of each country, you will get a ratio that you can use to compare one country to another. It is of course not a perfect method but sufficient to give us a rough idea of how Malaysia compares with some other countries.

Here is data from 20 random countries
Country
Public Sector Employment
Population
Ratio (%)
Colombia
917.7
46.7
2.0
Singapore
117.6
5.2
2.3
Philippines
2722.0
92.3
2.9
Japan
4418.3
127.5
3.5
Mexico
4512.7
112.3
4.0
Vietnam
4073.3
87.8
4.6
Malaysia
1411.5
28.3
5.0
Thailand
3381.5
65.5
5.2
Sri Lanka
1164.1
20.3
5.7
Brazil
11157.3
194.0
5.8
Italy
3586.6
59.5
6.0
Spain
2958.6
46.2
6.4
Uruguay
224.0
3.3
6.8
Germany
5840
81.8
7.1
Belgium
821.2
10.8
7.6
Australia
1751.4
22.8
7.7
UK
5595
62.3
9.0
France
6718
65.4
10.3
Sweden
1267.4
9.5
13.3
Denmark
925.6
5.6
16.6
** Employment data is in 1000's and for 2008. Population data is in millions and mostly for 2010 


The data shows that Malaysia’s ratio is not abnormal or high or special. In fact, compared to most developed countries, our ratio is rather low. I also relooked at data from other developed countries (not listed above) – and there trend is consistent. Fully developed countries have a much larger proportion of their population working in the public sector. Singapore is an obvious exception.

Anyone who claims that the number of people working in our civil service is high is obviously talking through his ass.

There are several other related issues though.

Productivity. You may ask, ok it is not bloated but is it efficient or productive?. The Malaysian civil service, like organizations all over the world, private sector included, can obviously improve its productivity. There are without doubt deadwoods and nincompoops in the public sector [but then there are nincompoops in the private sector as well, not forgetting hundreds of zombies in the political parties]. Yes, productivity is something the civil service needs to work really hard on. We have seen some remarkable improvements (e.g. Income tax, Immigration Dept, EPF) and I am sure we will continue seeing more. [BTW, how about you? Is your productivity improving?]

[in future, instead of travelling half way across the world for some lawatan sambil belajar, folks from JPA should just go over the causeway to learn from the Singapore’s civil service].



The nature of civil service jobs. If you sieve through the data about the types of jobs, the civil service in the fully developed countries tend to have a lot more jobs that cater to things that are higher in the hierarchy of needs. For example, there will be many times more public sector workers in environmental protection or research or specialised health care and very few in agriculture or mining. Lesser developed countries, on the other hand, will have a lot more public sector workers in sectors such as agriculture extension - consistent with the main economic drivers. Denmark for example, has 10 times more government workers in environmental protection compared to Malaysia on a per capita basis. Malaysia, on the other hand has 50 times more environmental protection officers compared to Bangladesh, again on a per capita basis. So as Malaysia develops further, the composition of public sector jobs will also change.

Professional vs non-professionals ratio. I think one of the problems with the Malaysian civil service is the ratio of professionals versus non-professionals. Based on the limited research that I have done, I think the ratio is about 20:80 (professionals only account of 20% of the civil service). The situation is worse in the state civil service. We have too many clerks, drivers, technicians, etc. This places significant burden on the professionals who have the most responsibility – having to attends the hundreds of meetings, make decisions, etc. [that’s why everytime you call an officer – the standard answer will be “dia pergi meeting” – which is obviously a very big improvement compared to “dia pergi minum” that you used to get in the past. This is of course a legacy from the past. The government needs to either eliminate some of the clerical jobs or retrain its staff to do other things. Surely with computerization, many of the jobs can be eliminated. We need to boost the number of professionals in the civil service and this will directly boost productivity. [of course, eliminating or reassigning civil service staff is not easy – the unions will be up in arms].

BTW, Over 90% of the staff members in my company are professionals – completely opposite that of the Malaysian civil service.

To summarise. The number of people working in the public sector in Malaysia is not high by world standards. In fact, as the country develops, we will have to increase the current numbers significantly. Productivity and efficiency need to be enhanced and we are seeing some good results in several agencies.

The type of public sector jobs will also change. We will need a lot more people in health (including mental health), environmental protection, communication, finance, R n D, etc. The number of public sector jobs in agriculture, forestry, mining, etc will decline.

The Malaysian civil service also needs to correct the imbalance between its professional and sub-professional staff. More professionals are needed. Some of the clerical jobs should be eliminated. And I don’t think the civil service needs so many drivers.


Monyet King also says
The number of gullible Malaysians (i.e. people who will believe any shit) is increasing rapidly. AWAS.


12 comments:

eddy said...
Your last paragraph is scary but true:"The number of gullible Malaysians is increasing rapidly"
CK said...
nothing like good hard data to argue your case. well done
Anonymous said...
These uncivil servants also have to handle the 5 million or more legals and illegals. Does that make them even more efficient? It is a joke to compare them to Denmark, UK, etc. Are they delivering service in the ratio 5:16.6 or 5:9 as compared to Denmark, UK, etc. They generally serve no one but thier masters and themselves.
vincent said...
It's funny, the other day someone was ranting on FB about the inefficiencies of gomen servants. In turn, I asked him what he was doing on FB during office hours.
PerakMan said...
Most people don't realise that western countries employ a lot of people in the public sector
lordapes said...
Wow. Haha.
bruno said...
Monyet King,

Is the civil service very bloated.

Very bloated is an under statement.

Very very very bloated is the correct word to used.After all it takes a bunch to complete a form.
PerakMan said...
Whoever this bruno fella is, he is an idiot. talks without looking at facts. prejudiced.
jay jamil said...
As a civil servant, i believe those kakitangan sokongan (unprofessionals) can be reduced or upgraded into better post. I have seen many of them possess diplomas, degrees but the job scope are mainly operational type like clerks or enforcement officers in the streets etc, which they are merely do whatever they need to do.ironically sometimes public do come to us expecting us to serve them with greater attention (time, effort, explanation) as they are tax payers, as example isi borang pun still hope my clerks to help them, so we still need those staff around. same goes to replying emails of inquiries or complaints. Perhaps someday when our beloved malaysians are all IT savvy and literacy is 100 percents, PSD and MAMPU may have different approach to employ/deploy ppl. just my two cents.
Anonymous said...
If one is to take Minister Nazri's statement on The PM's Dept's Staffing and Budget...The Bloating is Phenomenally large at PM Najib's Office!!!

Possible to do a comparison with elsewhere on that (eg US President's Office?)



Joe Black
bruno said...
Perakman,

go visit the goman offices and the clerks and office boys wouldn't even noticed you unless you pakai kuat kuat.
CK said...
MK,

A more interesting analysis would be to compare the operational budget as a percent of the total budget by country. In our case, it's 80+%? No?

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