Malaysia has 1.4m public servants (ILO, 2008) for a population size of 28.7m. They make up 4.9 per cent of the population.
It is difficult to do cross-country comparisons because of the differences in definition of public servants, but let’s have some fun anyway and use the latest ILO figures for public servants in selected countries against their respective current populations obtained from Google. You can get the labour statistics by country from the ILO website.
The UK public sector has 6.1m employees (ILO, 2009) serving a population of 62.2m. That works out to 9.8 per cent.
Let’s look at Canada. It has 3.4m public servants (ILO, 2008) serving a population of 34.1m. That’s nearly 10 per cent.
Thailand has 3.4m public servants (ILO, 2008) for 69.1m people. Works out to 4.9 per cent. Almost similar to Malaysia.
Difficult to do a similar comparison for Singapore as the ILO only provides figures for the general government sector and not the entire public sector.
Australia has 1.8m public sector employees (ILO, 2009) for a population of 22.3m or 8.1 per cent.
Malaysia might not look half bad when we compare with these developed countries, but don’t forget we also have the staff in our numerous GLCs.
I suppose at the end of the day, the number of staff is one thing, but qualitative factors are equally if not more important.
Such factors include staff efficiency; adequacy of government funding (e.g. in education and health care); effectiveness and quality of staff and the delivery services; and how prevalent corruption and wastage is. For that, we have a long way to go to match some of the other countries mentioned above.