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There were large cuts to the public workforce over the last parliament during a period of fiscal consolidation. The public workforce fell by 375,000 between the start of 2010 and the end of 2014. The pace of public workforce cuts is likely to accelerate over the new parliament. Conservative party plans outlined in their manifesto imply a further reduction in the public workforce of 580,000 between 2014–15 and 2018–19, unless the government imposes further public pay restraint.

In this Briefing Note, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), we look at the movement between jobs, or ‘mobility’, of workers in the public and private sectors.

We set out the extent to which reductions in the public workforce to date have been delivered by reducing net inflows from outside the labour force (freezing recruitment of new workers and not replacing workers who move to non-employment) and increasing net outflows to the private sector (more workers moving from the public sector to the private sector than moving in the other direction).

We also explore the extent to which workers change jobs within sectors and move around the country. Both these forms of job mobility provide evidence on how the fluidity and flexibility of labour markets are changing over time and form a useful comparison in order to judge whether across-sector moves are relatively common or not. We might also expect these forms of job mobility to differ between the public and private sectors because of differences in the transferability of skills within sectors and the nature of rewards.