Individuals are hired, placed on the payroll but they never actually work. This is most common in public sector companies and government offices. The most blatant abuses are those cases where a person receives government wages but either does not exist or is not employed in the position for the employment is made. In some situations it is possible for those in a bureaucracy to create positions, whether to inflate the importance of their departments or to provide employment for a relative or for some other consideration. This leads to a high level of underemployment, to the point that many people may share the same desk at which they are assumed to be working. Of a totally different nature is the practice whereby one person, usually at an executive level, cumulates the salaries associated with different positions, if that person can arrange to be appointed to those positions simultaneously.
Ghost or phantom workers were identified at one stage as constituting approximately 7% of civil service employment in the Central African Republic and Guinea. A common practice is for a person to be on the government payroll but to spend most working hours engaged in some private enterprise in order to provide an additional source of income. Cumulation of functions is not uncommon in intergovernmental organizations and contributes to the drain on their resources.