More bureaucracy, less efficiency

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More bureaucracy, less efficiency

The Ministry of the Interior and Safety has announced the government will recruit 33,060 people across local governments this year, up a whopping 28.7 percent from last year. When accounting for the 14,000 quota for national payroll and 25,000 for public corporations, the public sector will hire over 72,000 people this year, the largest-ever employment of public servants in Korean history.

The government is acting out President Moon Jae-in’s campaign promise to address the “difficult job market and the shortage of human resources in firefighting, health care and public safety.”

Yet everyone knows how lax public organizations can be. Productivity and efficiency are low in the outsized public sector. If you visit any administrative offices, civil servants idly chat their time away, even when the room is crowded with people waiting. The bosses keep to their offices, oblivious to what is going on outside. There is no need to compete or work hard since jobs are secure until retirement.

The greater the head count, the greater the bill for taxpayers. If the administration bumps the government payroll up to 174,000 during Moon’s five-year term, as Moon promised, the cost to people’s salaries and pensions will be astronomical. The National Assembly budgetary office estimates that at least 327 trillion won ($293 billion) would be needed to keep them on the government payroll over 30 years. They will also collect pensions of 92 trillion won after retirement. As public jobs ensure security and comfort after retirement, university students and office workers are increasingly turning to cram schools to study for government exams.

Parkinson’s Law is always right: the greater the size of a bureaucratic body, the greater its inefficient becomes. Instead of trying to boost jobs in the public sector, the government should be more farsighted. Under the New Deal initiative in the 1930s, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt focused on bolstering infrastructure economically, environmentally and culturally. On top of that, he also promoted jobs in the private sector and corporate competitiveness.

Without more thorough outlines, the increase in public sector jobs will only result in window-dressing employment numbers. In the United States and China, the young are lured into venture and start-up businesses. Yet if the public sector takes away young talent, the country’s future is dark. The government must consider its impact on our economy, rather than simply abiding by a campaign pledge.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 26, Page 30
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