The Public Versus Austerity: Why Public Sector Wage Bill Constraints Must End

The Public Versus Austerity: Why Public Sector Wage Bill Constraints Must End

The world faces a series of inter-connecting crises and responding to them will demand a complete disruption of business as usual. In the light of Covid, the growing debt crisis, rising inequality, gender injustice and the climate crisis there is an urgent need to revisit the fundamental redistributive role of States and to reimagine the public sector. Over the past forty years austerity policies have led to cuts in the public sector workforce that have undermined the ability of governments to deliver quality public services. Whether imposed from outside by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), or from inside by Ministries of Finance who have internalised neoliberal ideology, one of the central austerity policy that most acutely impacts public services is the imposition of public sector wage bill constraints harming the delivery of gender-responsive public services. There are direct two consequences:

  • Blocks to the recruitment of new teachers, nurses and other essential workers, even where there are severe shortages; and
  • Strict limits to the already low pay of existing health, education and other public sector workers that undermine recruitment and retention of qualified staff.


Based on ground-breaking research we expose how austerity cuts in just 15 countries have blocked recruitment of over 3 million nurses, teachers and other essential public sector workers. Our findings reveal a deeply embedded mind-set that is irrationally anti-public sector. Implementation of public sector wage bill cuts is revealed as both blunt and directionless, contradicting development goals and undermining the capacity of governments to respond to intersecting crises undermining progress on health, education and gender equality while blocking climate action in some of the world’s poorest countries. No consistent advice was given to countries about how to increase fiscal space, for example by raising tax revenues through progressive reforms. The IMF’s own research shows that neoliberalism has been oversold for forty years and has stifled the very growth and development it was supposed to value. It is time for a system change focused on economic justice, with public services at the core a more caring, feminist, green and just future.

On behalf of the entire team working to end public sector wage bill cuts we hope you join our call to action to #EndAusterity and attend the launch #PublicVsAusterity

Registration link:





*apologies for cross-posting*


Roos Saalbrink | Policy Adviser on Economic Justice and Financing for Development 

She | her 

ActionAid International - based in the UK   

[email protected]  

Skype: roossaal Twitter: @RSaalbrink 

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