Government employment and pay : a global and regional perspective
de Tommaso, Giulio
The authors try to replace myths about government pay and employment with reliable facts from a survey for about 100 countries in the early 1900s. The study also outlines the general nature of civil service problems in the different regions. Nevertheless, while the facts are useful to"flag"possible problems and initiate a dialogue, recommendations for reform must be based on country-specific analysis. Globally, government employment is negatively associated with wages, and positively with the fiscal deficit (although the availability of financing is more important) and with per capita income (confirming"Wagner's Law"). But the global results stem almost entirely from strong results for Africa and Latin America. Civil service reform has suffered in the past from an overemphasis on retrenchment for fiscal reasons. Its true objective, for each country, is to achieve a civil service of the size and skill-mix, incentives, professional ethos, and accountability needed to provide public goods, help formulate and enforce the rules, and intervene to remedy market failures -as these government roles happen to be defined in the country in question. Civil service reform can begin with various diagnostic and fact-finding activities. The key measures concern rightsizing, incentives, and accountability. These are all relative notions: the right size of the workforce depends on the roles assigned to government; wage adequacy depends on private compensation levels; and strengthening of accountability must define accountability for what and to whom. When retrenchment is warranted, it must be carried out with great care to avoid skill reduction, demoralization, and lower-quality service. Adequate compensation is a must, and wage compression isto be avoided. But performance bonuses, popular in some advanced countries, have been only marginally effective in improving performance in developing countries, even in the private sector. And they can be dangerous in countries with ethnic, clan, or religious conflicts. Finally, improvements in accountability will most often require greater external openness and systematic feedback from service users.
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