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Luxembourg's ballooning public sector grows 5% in year

Luxembourg's ballooning public sector grows 5% in year

by John MONAGHAN 3 min. 01.07.2021 From our online archive
Almost 2,000 workers were added to the government payroll last year, according to annual list of country's largest employers
Post Luxembourg remains the country's largest employer, for the sixth consecutive year
Post Luxembourg remains the country's largest employer, for the sixth consecutive year
Photo credit: Gerry Huberty

Luxembourg’s state payroll grew by more than 5% last year, figures by the national statistics bureau Statec show in its annual breakdown of the country’s largest employers, released on Thursday.

More than 31,000 people were employed by the Luxembourg government in January according to the figures, meaning almost 2,000 people were added to the payroll during the pandemic.

The ballooning size of the public sector – comprising civil servants, teachers and other education workers – has now increased by 20% in five years. When the first set of statistics were published in 2003, the state’s workforce was less than 20,000, an expansion of almost two-thirds in nearly two decades.

A Luxembourg Times investigation in May found that almost twice as many people in the country are employed by the government, public sector or state bodies than in financial services, which contributes the most to the Luxembourgish economy.

In the latest Statec statistics, government and state-owned companies – which are not counted towards the public sector totals – remain the country’s largest employers by a considerable distance.

Telecommunications and delivery company Post Luxembourg, with 4,620 workers, maintained top spot for the sixth consecutive year in the ranking of 20 companies, despite a small cut to their staffing levels. Another state-owned firm, rail operator CFL, held onto second spot, increasing its staff to 4,580, a rise of 70 on the previous year.

List largely unchanged

Luxair, the national airline, just clung on to its spot in the top 10 after a torrid year in which the Covid-19 pandemic forced widespread travel disruption. Having cut more than 100 posts in 2020, it slipped two places from eighth the previous year.

The family-owned Cactus supermarket chain remains the country’s largest private employer, with 4,460 workers, adding 40 posts in the last year.

Arcelor Mittal, which was once the country’s biggest employer, has dropped down the rankings, slipping one place to sixth. It had 3,660 employees in January, compared with more than 6,000 at the start of the last decade.

The world's largest steelmaker closed one plant in Bettembourg in 2016 and sold another in Dudelange to London-based Liberty Steel in 2019. Most workers at the Dudelange plant have been receiving unemployment compensation in recent months through a government furlough scheme, amid ongoing financial problems at Liberty Steel.

ArcelorMittal swapped places in this year’s ranking with BGL BNP Paribas, the Luxembourg unit of the French banking firm, which moved into fifth spot. It started 2021 with just over 4,000 workers in Luxembourg.

The huge growth of online retailer Amazon, which entered the top 10 list for the first time last year, shows no signs of slowing. It added more than 500 new posts in 2020 to climb to eighth spot in this year’s rankings. It had 3,280 staff at its European headquarters in Luxembourg in January, almost four times the total it had in 2015.

The corporate giant, which overturned a European Commission ruling at the European Court of Justice in May that a favourable tax decision by Luxembourg had amounted to illegal state aid, has also announced that it plans to create a further 600 posts in the country this year.

Other positions on the annual list remain unchanged from last year. Security, cleaning and catering contractor Dussman in Contern comes in fourth with 4,390 workers; while the top 10 ranking is completed by tyre manufacturer Goodyear Dunlop, in at seventh with 3,570 jobs, and Big Four accounting company PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) , in ninth place with 2,980 employees.

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