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The public sector has lost its appeal for private-sector jobseekers

Fewer people now plan to move from the private sector into a public-sector job than in 2009.

The Private to Public Perceptions Survey 2010 from Hays found less than 38% of private-sector respondents would consider working next for either local or central government, or the NHS.

The figure is a drop of more than a third on a similar survey in 2009 when 72% of respondents stated that they were considering a move to the public sector.            

While nearly half of respondents (42%) in the 2009 Hays survey thought the public sector was ‘more ethically and morally rewarding' , that figure has now slumped to just 21%.

Responses to the survey showed the search for job stability is markedly less important this year (50%) as a driver of career change compared with 2009 (73%). One third of respondents anticipate ‘considerable' job cuts in the public sector after the election. However, the survey revealed an increase in those who were considering a move into the public sector being motivated by the search for a better work-life balance (73%) compared with 2009 (59%).

More people considering the move were doing so because they wanted better benefits, up from 37% to 47%. The survey found that a high number of respondents cited too much bureaucracy and lack of dynamism as reasons why the public sector was unattractive.

Andy Robling, public services director at Hays, said: "People are feeling more confident about the private sector as we move out of recession and less confident about the public as we move into an era that anticipates significant job cuts in the sector.

"There are clearly going to be challenging times ahead and although some jobs are going to go, the likelihood is that others will be created. We see a considerable need for people who are able to manage change, and the trend towards private sector involvement will continue as services are increasingly outsourced over the next two or three years.

"We are probably about to witness one of  the biggest reorganisations of public services in a generation. The debate is not so much about the structure of public-sector organisations, but about how services are configured and delivered. It will be a quite profound change, but one that opens up opportunities for public and private sectors whereby they aren't seen as two distinct worlds. As the public sector engages more with the private, so the work environment will be every bit as challenging, which also suits many people currently in the private sector and will provide further development opportunities for those already working in the public sector."

David Pardey, head of policy at the Institute of Leadership and Management, added: "Challenging times certainly lie ahead for public-sector workers. However, we believe this climate of uncertainty will also present of plenty of opportunities for creativity in coming months, and private-sector workers looking to make the leap across the pond should bear this in mind.
"Contrary to the findings of this Hays report, we also believe that the vision, creativity and dynamism of public sector managers should not be underestimated. In fact our recent research, Leading Change in the Public Sector, revealed that these managers have a real enthusiasm for innovation and see cuts as an opportunity to transform service delivery and drive productivity. Fundamentally, the Government, policy makers, HR directors and organisational leaders, need to capitalise on this spirit of optimism and opportunity.
"The fact that 61% of public-sector managers stated in our own research that they are now more satisfied, since they moved across from roles in the private sector, indicates that employment in the public sector should still be regarded as an attractive and viable option."

The Hays Private to Public Perceptions Survey was conducted in January 2010. It received over 500 responses from staff working in the private sector.