Tuesday

22nd Oct 2019

EU officials increasingly unhappy, audit finds

  • Average EU official is 48 years old and works 43 hours a week (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

The EU's 60,000 or so officials are less happy and new recruits are harder to attract after a €4.2bn cost-cutting plan, the bloc's auditor has said.

"There has been a marked decrease in staff satisfaction and an increase in sick leave," while "interest among potential new recruits has also declined", the EU's Court of Auditors said in a new report out on Tuesday (24 September).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

About a third of staff felt they had too much work and fewer than 50 percent said the European Commission, the largest EU employer, was "an attractive workplace".

The ill-will comes after the EU cut five percent of posts, increased the retirement age from 63 to 66, and capped pension increases and promotion rates in reforms put in place five years ago.

The measures saved €4.2bn over 2014 to 2020 and will save €19.2bn by 2064, the auditors noted.

But they reduced EU officials' purchasing power compared to careers at national level and increased the average working week from 42.6 hours to 42.9 hours, rising to as much as 51 hours in some departments.

The increase in sick leave, a marker of unhappy workers, was marginal overall, but shot up from 10.3 days per person per year to 18.9 days in the justice and consumer rights department and from 9.4 to 15.1 in the home affairs one.

Meanwhile, Dutch, French, Polish, and Spanish nationals were already under-represented in EU institutions before the changes.

And EU careers were only the 15th most popular option for graduates in Europe overall, dropping to 31st place in Germany and 48th place in Poland, according to a separate survey, by the Trendence Institute, a German consultancy, cited by the EU auditors.

At the same time, the average age of EU staff in 2018 was 48, while just 4.2 percent were under-35 (compared to 6.8 percent in 2016), painting a picture of an ageing as well as an unhappy workforce.

The changes also had other negative side-effects, for instance by "disconnecting pay and grade from level of responsibility" and by boosting the number of people on temporary contracts.

This meant some clerical staff now earned more than their bosses, while the coming and going of contract workers reduced the number of experienced personnel.

The reforms did help improve gender balance.

The share of women in senior posts increased from 30 percent in 2014 to 34 percent in 2017 on the way to a target of 40 percent by 2020.

"Men still occupy most posts in the highest grades. However, since women now make up the majority of junior staff, the share of women in higher grades and senior management positions should be expected to increase over time," the auditors said.

The audit noted that EU workers, on average, get promoted every three years.

The 2014 reform also made it easier to downgrade or dismiss people who performed badly.

"However, so far only few such cases have been reported at the [EU] commission", despite the changes in staff rules, the audit said.

A staff member needed five consecutive negative annual reports to warrant dismissal.

But "estimates for the commission as a whole are around 20 unsatisfactory reports per year" in total, covering fewer than 0.1 percent of staff, the auditors said.

Investigation

EU institution beset by harassment claims

Insiders at the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), the EU's smallest institution, have described a culture-of-fear environment in the workplace, in the wake of the probationary appointment of its newest secretary-general.

Investigation

The EU committee's great 'per diem' charade

Around 30 members of European Economic Social Committee, who live and work primarily in Brussels or nearby, have claimed €1.47m in a 'daily subsistence' allowance from European taxpayers to cover accommodation, food and local transport for meetings held in Brussels.

EU parliament quietly hoards visitors' wi-fi data

The European Parliament is retaining the data of everyone who uses their wi-fi network, including journalists and visitors, and providing access to national authorities in case of investigations.

French EU nominee loses vote and is out

France's nominee for EU commissioner lost the vote on her candidacy, with 82 MEPs against and 29 in favour, after hard questions in a second hearing.

News in Brief

  1. Four businessmen charged in Slovak journalist murder
  2. Erdogan accuses EU of 'standing by terrorists' in Syria
  3. Migrants riot in Maltese camp
  4. Spanish PM refuses dialogue with Catalonia president
  5. Putin: Russia will help Africa without 'conditions'
  6. Almost 200 arrests in Catalonia independence protests
  7. Report: Russian hackers used Iranian cover to attack UK
  8. Next EU economy chief calls for looser budget policies

Column

These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

These developments will largely determine who will be running the world in the coming decades and perhaps generations. If the Europeans can't find an answer over the five years, they will be toast. And we haven't even mentioned climate change.

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  3. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  4. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  5. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  7. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  11. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work

Latest News

  1. Macron breaks Balkans promise in quest for EU dominance
  2. Snap elections in North Macedonia after EU rejection
  3. UK opposition MPs attack new Brexit deal
  4. Deep divisions on display over post-Brexit EU budget
  5. Juncker: 'Historic mistake' against Balkan EU hopefuls
  6. EU leaders spent just 12 minutes on climate
  7. Crunch Brexit vote in UK This WEEK
  8. EU envoy sheds light on weird US diplomacy

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us