Council layoffs spare administrators
Some 11,000 permanent public jobs were cut by local councils last year due to the recession. The majority of those cuts came at the expense of teachers and people who work face-to-face with children, the elderly and the sick. In contrast, public administrators and office workers absorbed a bigger portion of the public payroll, reports Politiken newspaper.
Figures from the councils’ own records show that the percentage of the public payroll going to teachers, daycare workers and healthcare assistants fell in relation to payroll for administrators and office and IT workers in 2010.
In terms of number of jobs in the different categories, the picture remains the same. There are fewer teachers and daycare workers and more academics and administrators today, according to estimates from the Danish Union of Teachers.
Several years of steady increases in the number of public office workers and administrators appear to have levelled off now, and have even fallen a little bit – but not nearly as much as jobs for workers who come in direct contact with children.
“The numbers show that people are being shifted from face-to-face services with citizens,” said Dennis Kristensen, the chairman for Fag og Arbejde (FOA), a union that represents some 200,000 of the country’s healthcare, daycare, and eldercare workers. “At the same time, it’s apparent that the city halls are ramping up. Lots of academics, for example, are being used for outsourcing.”
Exactly the opposite sort of development is needed in times of financial crisis, according to Kristensen. He believes that bosses should have looked closely instead at which administrative jobs could be eliminated.
He added that field workers had seen little benefit from the additional administrative workers. In fact, he said, the introduction of handheld computers has put the burden of documentation on their shoulders.
The Danish Union of Teachers (DLF) reports that nearly 2,500 teaching jobs were slashed by local councils in the last few years, far out of proportion with the fall in the number of students.
If the cuts to teaching jobs were proportional to the fall in the number of students, only a few hundred teaching jobs would have been eliminated, according to DLF.
Christiansen takes umbrage to stereotypes that public schools are swimming in funding and still under-achieving: “It doesn’t answer at all to the reality teachers experience with fewer classroom hours, more students, scanter budgets, and so forth,” he said.
“How can we live up to the colossal ambitions for the public schools?” he added – a reference to, among other things, the government’s challenge to educators that students should score among the top five countries in the world in the next Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) in 2020. Denmark placed 24th out of 65 countries in the 2009 assessment.
Lars Eckeroth, a spokesperson for Local Government Denmark, the national association of local councils, had a different angle on the growth in clerical jobs. He pointed to the effect of the municipal reform of 2007, which reduced the number of local councils from 271 to 98.
“The councils took on a big share of the workload following the council reform, which means that we have hired more office and IT personnel,” Eckeroth said. “At the same time there has been significant growth in, for example, digitalisation and the purchasing area, and that also requires more administrators and office and IT people.”
Eckeroth added that school mergers naturally resulted in a need for fewer teachers, but that the remaining teachers and care workers were able to focus more on their primary tasks – teaching and services – because bureaucratic and office duties had been assumed by extra administrators.