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Preparing for Civil Service Pay and Employment Reform: A Primer


M Stevens  (1994)
12 pages

Pay and employment reform form the basis for effective reform in other areas of the civil service. This chapter of a World Bank publication on pay and employment reform examines the steps to designing a successful civil service reform programme.

The main findings of this paper are: Civil service reform is based on three goals: Reducing staff numbers, decompressing salary scales and improving management procedures. Analysing countries by civil service pay, employment and performance can group countries into three categories:

  • Pay is adequate to motivate staff, but levels are below that of the private sector, providing difficulties in recruiting new staff. Reforms should delay recruitment, decompress salary scales and perhaps implement management changes.
  • Salaries are sufficient to live off, but not enough to motivate staff, perhaps resulting in significant overstaffing. Pay reforms and management improvements can rectify imbalances.
  • Systems of monetary pay have completely collapsed and alternative rewards systems taken over. Reforms are particularly difficult in these cases so radical reviews are necessary. Countries now embarking on civil service reforms fall into this category, giving an urgent need to devise sustainable reforms appropriate for such situations.

The main policy implications of this paper are: Reforms should be designed with regard to budget realities and government policy. They should entail examining past pay policies to identify changes required. How to design a civil service reform programme is outlined:

  • The term ‘civil service’ should be used as broadly as possible. An employment structure should be mapped – this may include large numbers or an administrative elite. The structure may include those in separate services who are paid from government funds (eg teachers, health staff), daily paid staff, the military, local government workers and the parastatal sector.
  • Staff numbers are required but are often not easily available, although much can be learned from the process of finding them. To give a complete picture of the situation numbers should present changes over time, how staff are employed by department, by service, by professional cadre and by salary grade.
  • Pay scales can be interpreted to present their evolution over time and comparisons between public and private remuneration. Hidden benefits are common and should be taken into account here as they are often of significant value. The idea is to achieve a comprehensive picture of the reward system, which may not be transparent or equitable.
  • Costs incurred in downsizing, eg severance pay and pensions, should be estimated as these can be substantial.

Source: Stevens, M. 1994, “Preparing for civil service pay and employment reform: a primer” in Lindauer, D.L. and Nunberg, B., Rehabilitating Government: Pay and Employment Reform in Africa,World Bank, Washington DC, USA.

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