Few of us who go about our daily lives in the capital, looking up at the bureaucratic glass tower blocks, have any idea of what the keyboard tappers, formerly known as pen pushers, are actually doing.

The public service is a powerful workforce, employing more than 47,000, with 41 per cent of them in Wellington, and half that number in Auckland. Cast the net wider and include the whole of the public sector and you've got a formidable workforce of around 348,000 people, or 14 per cent of the country's workforce.

It's made up of 29 departments or ministries, things like the Reserve Bank and tertiary institutions, police and health professionals, 16 state owned companies, 67 territorial authorities and 16 regional councils.

As something of an indictment, the single biggest department is now Corrections which runs the country's prisons.


Successive Governments have tried, but have essentially failed to prune what many see as a bloated bureaucracy which becomes fatter by the year.

It's hard to get an insight into what this fair sized town of people do, the closest we got was with the 1980s, wildly popular, satirical television series Gliding On. Thankfully we've moved on from the cigarette filled offices of those times, where women were essentially employed to wheel around the tea trolley.

The current Godfather of the public service, State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes opened the door to give us a bit of background info on the modern day bureaucrat where women now make up 48 per cent of the senior managers and where the number of female chief executives has climbed to 41 per cent.

And if you're a public servant you're doing better than most with an average annual salary of $75,416, or 12 grand more than the average wage. But the pay packets of those working for the state vary widely with the lowest paid looking after the have-nots in society, those working for the Social Development Ministry who earn on average less than $66,000 a year.

At the top of the income scale are those who're paid to keep the public service in check, yes the State Services Commission staff, who earn on average just under $135,000 a year and there are 132 of these well-heeled suits, and if you've got an analytical mind, there are a couple of jobs currently in the offing.