Asked about Macron’s op-ed on Europe (published 4 March), France’s Europe minister and probable head of list for the LREM party at the upcoming EU election, replied to criticism of European bureaucracy by claiming: “There are fewer civil servants at the European Commission than at Paris city hall”. That’s true, but that’s also comparing oranges and apples.
She was quoting, word for word, an article by “Décodeurs de l’Europe” (Decoders of Europe), a European Commission PR service which addresses popular beliefs in the guise of “fact-checking” and was here addressing the allegation that Brussels has too many civil servants.
In the 2017 article, they wrote that the Commission had 22 000 civil servants, to which must be added contract workers and other employees, increasing the figure to 33 000. “If we add civil servants and employees of other European institutions (Parliament, Council, agencies and the like), the total comes to 56 000, or barely more than the City of Paris (51 000) and far less than ‘Bercy’ (140 000 employees at France’s ministry of economy and finance)”.
Before making the comparison, Nathalie Loiseau should have read the whole of the Commission’s article, which goes on to add that such comparisons “do not make much sense, the missions of these public bodies being totally different”.
Mostly low-ranking employees in Paris
Paris city council indeed employs 51 000 civil servants and permanent contract workers, representing 48 832 posts at full-time equivalence (FTE). Among them, 10 159 work in the school system and 8210 in early-childhood education. As we explained in our previous article, “these are not teachers (paid by the education ministry) but rather employees working in schools, such as in canteens and in forms of childcare”. 7417 FTE jobs are devoted to waste collection and cleaning, while “the remainder work, in particular, at sports and cultural facilities and in park maintenance”, Paris city hall told us. “Employees working in cleaning, park maintenance, early-childhood care, extra-curricular school activities and social work together make up nearly 70% of the total”, noted a report by France’s regional audit office in late 2017. These are jobs which do not exist in Brussels.
Moreover, more than two-thirds of Paris municipal employees are in “Category C”, the lowest grade in the French civil service.
A half of administrators and their assistants in Brussels
In comparison, slightly more than 32 000 people work at the European Commission. Most employees, 35.6%, are tenured administrators (known as “AD”). “If you are recruited as an administrator, your tasks will generally consist of preparing policy, implementing EU legislation and carrying out analysis and advice”, indicates the Commission on its recruitment website.
At the highest grade, and with 4 years of service, an administrator’s average monthly salary can reach € 16 000. 25.6% of employees are tenured assistants. “If you are recruited as an assistant within the EU institutions, you will generally be required to carry out technical tasks or management within the following areas: administration, finance, communication, research, or the preparation and implementation of actions”, says the Commission, which notes that the average monthly salary of a recently-recruited assistant, at the lowest grade, is € 2300. 22.3% of employees are contract workers whose functions are very different in practice: “manual and administrative tasks; secretarial and office-management tasks; tasks of execution, editing, accounting and equivalents; administrative, linguistic and advisory tasks and equivalents”. And the remaining 20%? 6.4% are local agents, meaning Commission employees who work outside the EU. And 4.1% belong to senior management. The rest are divided between contractual assistants and administrators, and special advisors.
“The EU spends less than 7% of its annual budget on administration. That includes salaries, pensions, schools for the children of civil servants, building maintenance, etc.”, according to the Commission.
To sum up, the European Commission employs fewer civil servants than Paris city council, but the figures are not particularly comparable. The status and function of Paris city employees have very little in common with those of EU employees.
Translated by Harry Bowden, VoxEurop