In the immediate aftermath of the recession in 2008, employment in the public sector continued to grow, helping to sustain demand in the European economy. However, by 2010, significant restructuring was underway in the public sector in several Member States. In contrast to restructuring in the private sector, public sector restructuring affects much of the population, and so generates a great deal of political interest and some controversy. It is also particularly complicated, and often problematic - not least on account of the numbers of people involved, the tradition of strong employment protection and high levels of trade union representation. The rationale for public sector restructuring is also very different to that in the private sector, one important factor being that it is not motivated by a decrease in demand for its services. Recent public sector restructuring has almost exclusively been triggered by the dire state of public finances in many Member States.
Just as the recession has had very different impacts in various Member States, so too has the extent of recent public sector restructuring. This is, of course, largely due to the different rates of public debt, which have varied considerably from one Member State to another. However, it is also the case that Member States that initiated significant public sector restructuring in the 1990s had less need to restructure post-2008.