After 2018, public sector recruitment should slow

Hiring will continue apace next year, but then it’s time for more modest growth

There has been a narrative in recent years that Ireland does not have enough public servants in key areas such as health, education and policing. After Budget 2018, this argument is starting to look flimsy. The budget documents point out that since the end of the moratorium on hiring in 2014, public sector numbers have grown by more than 3 per cent per annum on average, equating to an additional 8,000 jobs each year and an additional €1.8 billion in pay bill expenditure between 2014 and 2017.

The spending report with the budget says “recent growth in public service staffing means that at the end of 2017 overall numbers will be approaching peak levels.”. And hiring will continue in 2018, with the budget promising an additional 1,800 frontline health staff, 1,300 additional teachers and the recruitment of 800 gardaí and also 500 civilian posts in the Garda organisation.


The budget spending report says this builds capacity in the public services and allows services to be improved. It adds, however, that it is “likely that more modest growth” in numbers will be required in future, but that a continued focus will now be needed on the “level and composition” of the overall public sector workforce. In other words, we are close to the point where the Department of Public Expenditure will be putting the brakes on recruitment – assuming the Government agrees.

With both public pay and numbers on the rise again, the public sector pay bill will rise to €17.4 billion next year, up 5.6 per cent on 2017. It all adds up to a considerable commitment of cash to public services since the floor of the recession.


Paschal Donohoe correctly observed in the budget speech that we do not have the money to throw at problems. The numbers are now there. The focus now must be on delivery.