2018 photo when Portugal was seen as a European country with lower numbers of public sector workers than the average

Number of public sector workers close to “highest of all time”

In the close-on six years of Socialist rule, Portugal’s tally for public sector workers has increased to practically the highest of all time (registered in another era of PS Socialism in 2005).

As Expresso’s Economia edition explains, the country has already ‘recovered’ numbers ‘lost’ in the troika years (when international lenders were overseeing management of the country’s finances, post €79 billion bailout).

According to data published by DGAEP (the general directorate of public employment and administration), the second trimester of 2021 saw the country with 731,285 public sector workers – only 200 behind the ‘highest number of all time’, registered during the first year of government under José Sócrates.

“With new hiring underway, it is possible that the 200 workers away from an historic maximum will have been overtaken by the end of June”, the paper points out – meaning figures by the end of the year may well show a new record.

To give an idea just how ‘massive’ the current total is Expresso refers to ‘earlier years’ where public sector workers numbered only 383,103 in 1979, 509,000 in 1991 and 702,000 in 1999.

Admittedly, the world has ‘moved on since then’: progress may well demand an increase in the number of people employed by the State – but considering ‘public sector reform’ was one of the mantras of the troika years, the concept seems largely to have gone by the board.

The highest increase in jobs can be seen in central administration (meaning government departments). 

Since António Costa’s government ‘seized’ power with an unlikely left-wing coalition at the end of 2015, the country has “gained 72,182 public sector workers –  more than recovering the losses during the austerity years”, explains Expresso.

“Just in the last year, another 25,700 workers joined public administration, translating into an increase in the creation of employment of 3.7%”.

It has to be stressed nonetheless that much of the new employment (58%) between 2020 and 2021 has been created with fixed-term contracts, meaning the workers may not have a job ‘secured for life’ (as public administration posts have tended in the past to be) – and salaries have not “accompanied the dynamic of indicators”, stresses Expresso.

The average monthly pay packet of a public sector worker has risen very little over the years and is currently at just over €1,800, says the paper.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com