ZIMBABWE’S public sector monthly wage bill has increased 10-fold to $300 million over the past decade, official data has shown.
The actual size of the southern African country’s labour force remains a mystery, with the last official estimates putting it in the range of 600 000.
A 2015 audit of the civil service revealed that millions of dollars were being spent on salaries to ghost and idle workers.
Resizing the public sector has been a topical issue over the past decade for the government, which struggles to fund its operations, but political pressures have stalled any such plans.
Employment costs still account for a large chunk of government expenditure, leaving measly amounts for capital projects.
In the ongoing negotiations between government and civil servants’ representatives, government has indicated a willingness to increase wages, a development which would see the wage bill grow further.
Finance minister Mthuli Ncube has reignited plans of trimming the civil service, proposing biometric registration of all public sector workers so as to flush out ghost workers.
He said the registration process would be rigorous and would involve capturing data on letter of appointment, academic and professional qualifications, national identification documents, employment code numbers and biometric data.
Last Friday, the Public Service Commission said that it had begun the process of laying off just over 3 000 workers from its youth ministry, as it tries to make good on its promise to cut the bloated civil service and sort out the country’s finances.
However, the anticipated savings will most likely be offset by government’s plans to hire an additional 3 000 primary and secondary school teachers.
Previous attempts to get rid of the youth officers by former Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa were blocked by ex-President Robert Mugabe.