23 days before a new government is set to be sworn in, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has authorized a plethora of new public sector jobs, including a new Ambassador to Ukraine. This has hit something of a nerve with the opposition, which is alleging that the administration is giving jobs to people affiliated with the current government for which they receive salaries while supposedly doing little to earn them.

Between yesterday and today, various decrees and resolutions were passed to create 1,000 new public sector jobs. The latest were Decrees 2402 and 2373, permanently incorporating 49 people to the public sector and allowing the entry of 57 more into the National Service of Health and Food Quality (SENASA). In addition, the third ambassador to Ukraine in eight weeks was assigned with Decree 2413. Furthermore, Resolution 980/2015 extended a public tender for 912 jobs in the Ministry of Health. All in all, it’s been quite a carnival of new opportunities in the public sector.

Making people happy with new jobs in the public sector. Or is she? Source: La Nación
Making people happy with new jobs in the public sector. Or is she? Source: La Nación

First and foremost, it should be clarified that public sector jobs are not created solely to maintain political friends afloat. People who work in the public sector are there to provide government services. Yes, this is obvious, but this fact is sometimes forgotten as the opposition continues to perceive many moves from the FpV as a strategy to withhold as much power as possible if faced with a possible administration change — or to make their new jobs that much harder.

To be fair, this fear is backed up by the recent memory of Cambiemos’ new mayor of Concepción in Tucumán Province being barricaded in his own town hall overnight due to protests over him declaring that he would fire those who had, in his view, unnecessary municipal jobs. The town descended into violence — allegedly supported by Sánchez’s predecessor — and in the end, the local government went back on the decision to fire 470 people. The recent assignment of the Defense Minister Agustín Rossi’s daughter, 26-year-old Delfina Rossi, as the head of Banco Nación by presidential decree also caused quite a media storm. In any case, yesterday’s authorization of over 1,000 public sector jobs has aroused suspicion of foul play.

Reasons aside, there has been an undeniable growth in the public sector in Argentina, especially in the provinces. According to Chequeado, public employment has risen at a faster rate than private employment since 2007. While the private sector has practically stagnated for the past four years, as Cambiemos’ Mauricio Macri mentioned in the runoff presidential debate, the public sector has expanded by 9.8 percent, according to the Foundation of Economic Investigation in Latin America (FIEL).

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Participation of public sector employment over total employment in the provinces. Year 2013. Source: Chequeado

According to the Annual Poll of Urban Homes (EAHU), processed and condensed in the infograph above, between two and three people out of 10 are employed by the State on some level. The provinces that have the highest percentages of State employment have a strong oil industry and are the home provinces of Néstor and Cristina Kirchner as well as ex President Carlos Menem: namely, Santa Cruz (41 percent) and La Rioja (37 percent).

According to the same study, the rise in public sector jobs has also implied the expansion of the State’s scope: for example, railroad services had previously been outsourced to private dealers.

As aforementioned, not all these public sectors are created solely for the purpose of creating excuses for people to earn inflated salaries or to make the next administration’s new mandate harder. Many already work for the State and are incorporated permanently with a legal contract. However, when taking the numbers and the political context into account, there is a strong probability that this will blow up, at least in political discourse, sometime soon.

The creation of 1,000 public sector jobs is not inherently a problem. Hopefully those who are abusing the generosity of the State can be dealt with accordingly without violence erupting while those who have earned their permanent job in the public sector will be able to keep it without persecution.