Cutting the overhead?

 The government has a target to cut the administrative overhead by 30% over the life of this Parliament. This is a demanding target, but one that can be hit. It will be easiest to do so, if full use is made of people leaving public service to retire or take jobs elsewhere. It’s cheaper and fairer than sacking people.

I have asked a series of questions to find out how effective this means of slimming the overhead is proving. So far, in the departments that have answered, they have lost around 4% of their staff numbers in an eight month period. This suggests the overall annual rate of  leavers is 6%. What is surprising is they have replaced half of these, meaning that the overall numbers are only down around 2%. If they are to hit the 30% target, they need to get better at avoiding replacement. If the post is essential then they need to promote from within, and remove some other post as a result.

You can view a slide of the complete data here – Civil Service Employment by Department.18.03.11.

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66 Comments

  1. lifelogic
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    What is actually required from the state could easily be achieved, more effectively than it is now, with fewer than half these numbers.

    The government just need some determination to do it.

    Clearly it has none.

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 21, 2011 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      I am perhaps rather generous to the state here:

      Roughly about 1/3 of state activity is pointless and does not need to be done or done by the state at all.
      (The indoctrination PR, the census, the equality agenda etc.)

      About 1/3 is positively negative and handicaps industry by forcing it to jump through pointless hoops and making them employ a vast number of staff doing non jobs in the private sector. If you are not convinced read Huhne’s “carbon document” or endless similar government documents or PR spin.

      The final 1/3 does need do be done but could be done about twice as efficiently by perhaps half the number of people.

      So administration jobs could be cut to about 1/6 of the current total and as a further side benefit up to ten times this number of pointless jobs in the private sector could be saved.

      Adjustments to simplify tax and make the legal system sensible could save countless further pointless jobs. Making industry more efficient and bringing prices down and creating real new jobs.

      Win win for all rather than Dave’s current plan – the direct opposite.

      • Bazman
        Posted March 21, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

        Common sense tell us this is not true. If the state did not have any bureaucrats and officials to carry out the will of parliament and the police to enforce this will, or laws, then all the determination in the world would still make parliament little more than a talking shop. Of course they need to carry out the work/will more efficiently and maybe even forced to, by bureaucrats! To say they are pointless is just nonsense. Where do you get this 1/3, 1/6, 10 times and countless? Out of the air? It’s like saying woman footballers should be at home washing the pots. Good fun, but you are just pouring petrol 0n the fire.

        • lifelogic
          Posted March 21, 2011 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

          I did not say ” the state did not have any bureaucrats and officials” plenty of countries are far better run than the UK with government expenditure at well below 20% of GDP. I think the figures I give are about right. If anything I think rather more than a third of government activity is totally pointless. The up to 10 times is probable an under estimate too – after all how many pointless private sector jobs are created by absurdly complex employment and tax rules. Indeed a great deal is spent just buying votes or trying to convince us patent nonsense that suites the ever growing state.

          Furthermore one department creates much pointless effort for other departments. So as examples employment legislation, equality nonsense, over blown health and safety, no retirement of the elderly, the happiness index, the need to consider EU and regional devolution handicap not only hurt the private sector but government departments even more so.

          I am not sure what you mean by:

          “It’s like saying woman footballers should be at home washing the pots”.

          But as you mention it:

          I think woman (and male) footballers should be allowed to do as they like and should be paid according to market forces not, as the government would have it, equal by some daft sex/age/sexuality equality law – now, I assume, still all to be employed at ninety two – thanks to Cameron.

    • Posted March 21, 2011 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

      That state has a determination not to be cut. The requirement of the real government, the One World variety, is for Britain and all nations to be sunk into unpayable debt. That keeps us in their power. The Civil Service is fully penetrated by its agents with Common Purpose enjoying the support of David Cameron.

      As cameron told the 1922, people have to get used to the New World Order. We are.

  2. Posted March 21, 2011 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    The public sector will never voluntarily cut it’s own staffing levels to the extent it should. What is required is decisive and effective leadership to impose cuts in staff and every other overhead. Unfortunately there are so many vested interests it’s unlikely to happen.

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 21, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

      Fairly good summary and as we see recently and time and again certain MEPs and MPs can be “persuaded” to try to change legislation or act in the interest of special interest groups, rather than those of the electors, very easily.

      So change is unlikely unless Cameron really wants change – so very unlikely indeed – I conclude.

  3. Javelin
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    I never believed for a moment that Osborne could cut the civil service.

    • Javelin
      Posted March 21, 2011 at 8:35 am | Permalink

      Here’s an example of a graduate who worked at the Foreign Office. His job as to produce a spreadsheet every day. It too him 30 minutes but he dragged it out for a couple of hours. He had to wait for a phone call from his manager. His manager could only be 2 grades above him so he had a chain of 4 bosses doing nothing but asking for the spreadsheet. After 4 months he went to the head of department and told them that he could save 4 peoples jobs. They told him he was a star, but nothing changed. After 4 more months he left and went to work at Goldmans.

      • Javelin
        Posted March 21, 2011 at 8:40 am | Permalink

        Another story at the Minstry of Agriculture and Fisheries. Every year they had extra budget so used to recruit a dozen or so consultants Guildford and pay them to do non-IT projects. Every year the contractors would turn up and deliver software that did nothing and nobody used. Eventually my friend stopped doing it because he became so disheartened.

  4. Posted March 21, 2011 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    Very interesting. However the numbers aren’t displaying properly. Could someone in your office email the spreadsheet to guido.fawkes@order-order.com.

  5. Mike Stallard
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    Thank you for these figures. Most interesting.
    Bureaucracy is deadly. Cliche? I do not think so. It must be constantly cut back like borage.
    Please note that you do not include Education. The Free Schools project is now running into serious bureaucracy as the Civil Servants are slowing the process right down and making it harder and harder to start up a new school. There are bureaucrats everywhere throwing obstacles in the way and, natch, it is all so necessary innit.
    Out of the chaos is emerging a couple of megaliths – ARK and E-Act – run, I imagine, by bureaucrats? Meanwhile other providers are being shoved out of the way. (Hat tip Toby Young in the Telegraph.)

  6. D K McGregor
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    Why has the MoD got the message that the other departments clearly have not? It is very frustrating and annoying that the need for economies is not being seriously addressed by the government itself , I do not blame the departments as they are only doing what comes easily. They need the smack of firm GOVERNMENT.

  7. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    Further evidence of the incompetence/ineffectiveness of ministers. How can anyone believe that this government is serious about keeping this target (or any other for that matter) with such a pathetic approach which would allow reductions without the need for mass redundancies?

  8. David Price
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    Note to Ed: the table is clipped when browsed using either IE9, Firefox or Chrome so it isn’t a browser specific fault such that the last two columns are not shown. They are display OK via the RSS feed though.

  9. alan jutson
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    John

    Seems to me like the Government need an enforcer to whom all senior Civil service chiefs should report.

    Meeting held, Government policy is explanied, personel retirement dates investigated to see how many and when, targets set, progresss monitored every month. No new positions to be filled other than internally, unless no one able to fill them (interesting to hear the reason why next grade down could not do the job)

    Non compliance by head of staff to plan, written warning, non compliance again, second written warning, third non compliance, dismissed as incompetent, no pay off.

    I really do not see the problem, no one made redundant, all done by natural wastage, other than incompetent management staff who are dismissed.

    Happy to do the job for 0 .1% of savings, on a results only basis.

  10. David John Wilson
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    What happens in most government departments is that an operational function is pruned for efficiency reasons and to save money. The people previously employed in that function are then hived off into a non-job and found something to do. At least ten percent of any government department or agency consists of these non-functions, most of which could be pruned resulting in a more efficient organisation.

  11. Alte Fritz
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Oh no! Not more pesky facts to get in the way of a good story.

    This points to a point you made a while ago, which had never occurred to me, but now never goes away. Public service managers do not know how to derive value from their people. They know how to draw lists, damage well tried structures, and demoralise their staff, but value, that’s a different matter.

  12. Paul
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    2 questions.
    Why do we need a department of Culture, Media and Sport?
    When will Huhne be fired?

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 21, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

      Why do we need the “Equality and Humans Rights”, Climate change, most employment tribunals, the EU, MEPs or indeed anything Welsh or Scottish above a county level or the English regional assemblies. Countless other things could very usefully go but doubtless won’t.

  13. John McEvoy
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    The government bureaucracy is stuffed full of turkeys. And as we all know, turkeys never have, and never will vote for Christmas.

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 21, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      “Turkeys do not vote for Christmas” – Voting Christmas (for the turkeys) is Cameron’s job.

      He clearly prefers to keeps the Turkeys -many of whom are actively working against both his and the country’s interests.

      The question is why?

      • zorro
        Posted March 21, 2011 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

        Maybe they have a Common Purpose?

        zorro

  14. forthurst
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Why should we believe that a department that is incapable of administering itself is any more capable of administering an external entity?

    How much of the manpower of the Civil Service is taken up with preparing statistics and answers to questions which parliamentarians might ask or have asked?

    How much manpower the Civil Service is duplicated by external consultants because the Civil Service lacks the specific skills?

    I think it is unfair to stigmatise individual ministers for failing to administer their departments with regard to headcount reduction. The job of individual ministers is to create policy and drive it through. There is, however, a collective responsibility on the government to ensure that the policy of cost reduction is universally applied; what is deeply lacking is any modus operandi by which this realistically can be achieved.

    JR on more than one occasion has pointed out how private industry can always reduce headcount when the situation demands it. But not only do the departments need to streamline their operations, they also need to streamline their functions: the Home Office is huge. How much manpower is spent in dealing with people who have entered the country illegally? All ilegal entrants should be dealt with in exactly the same way and should be subject to a simplified justice system which is designed as a gross deterent. That is common sense. How much work of the Defence dept is spent duplicating the work of defence suppliers?

    Perhaps the government needs advice from business people (I was not thinking of Lord Sugar); perhaps JR should be organising it, provided he is given a realistic budget?

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 21, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

      The trouble is once business people even good ones join the state sector and start spending other people money they tend to turn native.

  15. Michael McGrath
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Does each department have a person appointed to bring down the headcount, or explain why it cannot be achieved?
    Furthermore, does this person understand that he/she has to explain how the result has been effected and what impact, if any, will be felt?
    Finally, does he/she understand that this is a vitally important task and if he/she is not up to it, he/she will make a very personal contribution to the stated objective?
    Perhaps I should add that he/she would best report direct to the Cabinet Office to avoid any embarrassments with senior levels of the Civil Service and to give the ministers involved the power and responsibility they will need to complete the job

  16. acorn
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Have a look at Table 8 in the following; see where the rest of the (civil servants-ed) are.

    http://www.statistics.gov.uk/pdfdir/pse0311.pdf

  17. James Matthews
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    Can we please have some figures which distinguish between industrial and non-industrial civil servants? People looking at the raw figures tend to assume that they are all bureaucrats. Perhaps after the era of privatisation it is no longer the case, but in the past the civil service, especially the MoD, included tens (perhaps hundreds) of thousands of people doing essentially practical jobs, e.g., in royal dockyards and ordnance factories, storage depots, research establishments and so on. Such jobs need to be done by someone. Sometimes this can be service personnel, sometimes the private sector, but it isn’t always clear which is the most efficient and economical for the taxpayer.

    This isn’t a defence of civil service numbers, just a plea for greater clarity.

  18. Electro-Kevin
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Doubtless there are savings to be made.

    I am unsure of the efficiency of contracting out the services of, say, our local recycling centre so that the contractors hire in the cheapest labour which happens to be Eastern European.

    The rammifications are this: the council tax payer sees little in the way of lower tax, unemployed families are then paid for out of higher income tax and then there are the negative social consequences involved.

    What type of work are our less academically able people expected to do ?

    • Electro-Kevin
      Posted March 21, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

      My point here is that such arrangements are rarely the bargain they seem to be.

    • davidb
      Posted March 21, 2011 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

      I do a fair bit of work in waste picking stations. Some of the people are hired because they are cheap, but a lot of them are hired because they are willing. On some sites East Europeans wreck plenty of stuff, but they do turn up to work. I am sure that it is the unwillingness to work rather than the price of local labour which keeps them out of jobs.

      I think we should provide the unemployed with paid employment. Being paid to do nothing is a shameful waste of resources and destroys the work ethic.

      Of course, if you don’t want to work that’s your choice, but the other workers are not being forced to subsidise your lifestyle choice.

      • Electro-Kevin
        Posted March 21, 2011 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

        It’s the pay. And it’s the comparison of that pay to unemployment benefits.

        Pay a living wage and Brits will queue round the block for a job.

        Don’t pay a living wage then the consequence is Brits taking sickness benefit rather than the job.

        The false economy of the below-living-wage (in the public sector at least) is that the taxpayer is not only forced to shell out for benefits but must share stretched infrastructure and services with the imported labour necessary to do the work.

        I have no faith in our ruling elite. They have set us on the road to poverty.

        If Gadaffi wants to destabilise the Cameron government, rather than fight he need only facilitate a mass exodus of refugees from his country to ours.

        Because Mr Cameron wouldn’t have a clue what to do about it.

      • lifelogic
        Posted March 22, 2011 at 6:46 am | Permalink

        If the unemployed had to work for benefit most would find some other work.

        • Electro-Kevin
          Posted March 22, 2011 at 11:32 am | Permalink

          There is no reason why our streets should be litter strewn and the walls covered in graffiti for sure. But I doubt it result in an upsurge of people seeking work elsewhere.

          Have you ever had to chase around pubs trying to find your boss on a Friday night for your week’s wages ?

          There’s a lot to be said for a steady and lower income so long as it is secure and especially if it comes with tied accommodation and freebies.

          Welfare is the bane of Britain. It is worshipped by the left and suits capitalists alike. It enables cheap, higher quality labour to be imported rather than having to tackle the utter mess that liberalism has made of our people in terms of work ethic and education.

  19. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    I can think of two reasons why half of the leavers have been replaced:
    (1) Management have not planned ahead to work out how to reduce numbers.
    (2) A deliberate policy of ensuring that there are jobs available for young people, of which I for one thoroughly approve.

    • Stuart Fairney
      Posted March 21, 2011 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

      Pointless “make-work” jobs (for young people or anyone else) destroy actual productive jobs and make us all poorer.

      • lifelogic
        Posted March 21, 2011 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

        Spot on:

        Pointless jobs (paid for by taxing the productive) clearly render real jobs uncompetitive so businesses close or go abroad (green jobs and over regulation does the same). Surely only the BBC and the Guardian could still think that pointless jobs are actually a good thing for the economy.

        • Bazman
          Posted March 22, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

          Could you give an example of a ‘pointless job’? An art job maybe?

      • Lindsay McDougall
        Posted March 23, 2011 at 1:30 am | Permalink

        I’m talking about the situation where there is a vacancy and the choice is between a young person or an old person taking it.

  20. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    Another factor is Parkinson’s Law. Professor C Northcote Parkinson was a Civil Service insider and his Law was simply “Work expands to fill the time available.” My wife used to be a translator working in the Civil Service. Her experience was that married women working part time with a 5 hour day achieved as much as men working full time with an 8 hour day.

    • norman
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

      And both achieved as much as a 1 year old child spending an hour in nursery?

  21. Bazman
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    More fantasy. If you are going to say bureaucracy is pointless the you are going to have to say which laws and rules are pointless and have them removed from the statute books. It’s pretty obvious even to me, that John Redwood speaking as an MP is saying the departments should be more efficient. Each department might have some concrete arguments to say they are efficient. The idea that you could run a country without a entire department needs openly proving or it would be ‘a very threat to the foundations of society’ and demand pompous letters to the Times forthwith etc.

    • Stuart Fairney
      Posted March 21, 2011 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

      I’ll take a swing at that one.

      All of ’em, save for laws on murder/bodily harm, theft and the enforcement of voluntary contract.

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 9:07 am | Permalink

      We need a general defence, in law, that if you can show any legal regulation is pointless or worse counter productive, in your particular case, you can ignore it with impunity.

      That would get rid on the majority of nonsense in one go.

      • Bazman
        Posted March 22, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

        I’m still waiting to hear which of the supposedly 80% of pointless health and safety laws you propose to abolish?

        • lifelogic
          Posted March 22, 2011 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

          The 80% that are clearly pointless or even counter productive I have given many examples already.

          • Bazman
            Posted March 23, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

            You need to be more specific in which are pointless and counter productive. Would tax inspection come under this? Food standards agency and so on?

    • norman
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

      Bazman, did you know that the periods of high growth in the USA coincide exactly with the periods when there is stalemate in the US governement (i.e. when Democrats control one branch of executive/legislative and Republicans the other)?

      Why do you think that is?

  22. BobE
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    If in the budget George drops NI but puts the low rate up from 20% to 32% to compensate, then I as a pensioner will be hit hard by this. I don’t pay NI but I do pay the basic rate of tax. This is a crafty way to get more tax from pensioners, all pensioners will pay an extra 12% tax.
    BobE

    • alan jutson
      Posted March 21, 2011 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

      Bob E

      Exactly my thoughts, and probably the thoughts of those who are currently working who are over retirement age, and do not pay NI as well.

      Also tax on savings income, which should be abolished not increased.

      • sm
        Posted March 29, 2011 at 11:49 am | Permalink

        Why should a low earner pay more tax (read) NI than a pensioner at the same income levels?

        My thoughts are that NI has been more of a tax than insurance for years,(insurance it may have been but vastly underpriced). Its another political hot potatoe which divides generations particularly those with larger and or defined benefit pensions.

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 21, 2011 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

      The reason NI and tax are split is to disguise and hide the levels of tax we actually pay. Tax is split into VAT, employee NI, employer NI, VAT, Council tax, Fuel and other duties, TV tax, corporation tax, V.E.Duty, Stamp duty many others and soon compulsory pension tax. In this way government can can get away with taking a huge proportion of GDP in tax. Particularly if you do pinch it at source rather than taking it back later. Unfortunately it means finance, good workers, and businesses and tax revenues all slowly disappear to somewhere else where they can actually compete in the world market.

      Unifying tax and NI would good for the country as it will make tax more visible and thus less acceptable but would surely rebound badly on Tory popularity.

      Labour will wrongly accusing the Tories of increasing basic rate income tax to 32% (by combining with NI). Just as Labour wrongly claimed the credit for vastly more going to “University” by much of which was by virtue of Polytechnics just being renamed Universities.

    • Posted March 22, 2011 at 1:07 am | Permalink

      Yeah, but hacve you seen how many of you pensioners there are? It’s only going to get worse over the next 20 years too.

  23. Bazman
    Posted March 21, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    If you did really cut the civil service then what would all the ‘chaps’ do? The banks and their fathers friends couldn’t employ them all and not all all of them have the resources of Bertie Woosters family. Gasp! They would not have any money! Some of them would have to work for a living! A real crisis, The middle class social security system would go into meltdown. Even falling back on their arch enemy the BBC would not be enough. What would really happen and where do I apply to get a the heroic work of producing a spreadsheet once a day? Market forced huh?
    Live your life without a net and listen to the people cheer Tarqin.

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 9:12 am | Permalink

      “What would all the ‘chaps’ do?”

      Something useful and productive hopefully then perhaps they would be happier too doing something useful for a change.

      • Simon
        Posted March 22, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

        Lifelogic ,

        I believe Bazman is making the point that parts of the civil service act as a refuge for the privileged who don’t have the inclination to work elsewhere or suffer the indignity of drawing job seekers allowance .

        If he’s right then they will do all they can to preserve the status quo and Westminster will shield their school friends from the storm . To get the same savings will require a higher number of correspondingly cheaper plebs be culled .

        It was always thought that independently educated candidates made better army officers , fighter pilots , diplomats and civil servants .

        Perhaps the belief is justified , I don’t suppose that attitude has changed much . The state sector doesn’t make the same effort to instil self confidence into pupils . No time to with all the indoctrination to do .

        • lifelogic
          Posted March 22, 2011 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

          I am sure they will try to protect their jobs but Cameron’s job is to resist this.

          I rather doubt he will as I suspect he is a good presenter but a very poor compass.

      • Bazman
        Posted March 22, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

        The millions on the dole/income support must be not doing anything useful because of the money they are paid then? I bet they can’t wait to get started!

        • sm
          Posted March 29, 2011 at 11:55 am | Permalink

          Agreed.
          We need low to zero tax on employers/employees at low wage levels. Minimum wages up gradually with RPI and benefits static at CPI until we turn the deficit corner.

  24. Posted March 22, 2011 at 12:50 am | Permalink

    We could cut the public[service] by more than half,that is why I put the word in [ ] because it clearly is not a service,a service is something useful which more than half are not,it is not their fault blame the politicians especially the left creating a client state who would vote them in forever.
    Also by the way regarding Libya,it is not a country neither are any on the continent of Africa,all the boundaries were Colonial constructions of over 100 years ago,they do not take into consideration even Language like the other countries of the world,or for that matter Geography except where boundaries occasionally are Rivers or in the middle of lakes,look at how many borders are Dead Straight,like libya or Namibia and many others
    find me ONE straight border in europe.I caused a kerfuffle in South Africa when I suggested to a very senior ANC minister that actually IF the Argentinian principle in claiming the Falklands namely Geographic Proximity was applied to Equatorial Guinea
    then the main island off where the Oil lies actually is part of Cameroon and is only part of Equatorial Guinea because it was Spanish ruled and created.You see even native Africans know that their continent would look totally different if there had been NO colonies,(reference deleted)

    • Bazman
      Posted March 22, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      Care to tell us which of the services are not useful and who they are useless for? The user of these services by any chance?

      • lifelogic
        Posted March 22, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

        Anything with “equality” “sustainability” “rights” “redistribution” “discrimination” or “fairness” in any of their literature.

        • Bazman
          Posted March 23, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

          You should bear that in mind when you are getting your car ‘liberated’.

  25. Posted March 22, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    John what is so seditious about quoting…. (I didn’t have time to check out the reference you referred to. Please write your thoughts and I will publish them if not libellous)

  26. christopher
    Posted March 22, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    The figures are only disappointing if you are the person in work doing the counting.
    When the counting has been finalised then please remember to close the door on the way out ! You might find the private sector will employ you counting the foreign university students that do not go home.

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