Unlike Ireland, the poster child of European austerity advocates, Greece hasn’t covered itself in glory in recent times. However things are changing and their government appears to be taking the necessary tough decisions to help economic recovery. The most immediate of these is a streamlining of the public sector, with 15,000 public sector layoffs targeted over the next two years.
A lot of criticism has been levelled at Greece’s “bloated” public sector workforce, but in reality there are 700,000 people employed by the state or 6% of the population, while Ireland has 400,000 public sector employees representing 9% of the population. The public sector pay bill in both countries amounts to 12% of GDP.
The difference between us now appears to be in our willingness to address this cost base.
This week it was announced that Greece’s national broadcaster ERT was to close with a loss of 2,500 jobs. A draconian move but one designed to demonstrate clear intent.
With 2,150 permanent staff on the payroll of RTE, our state broadcaster, which had a €50m operating deficit in 2012, wouldn’t it be a good idea to follow the Greeks’ example?