Central public administration: Working conditions and industrial relations

Public sectors across Europe have undergone a number of structural reforms since the 1970s, with the aim of modernising public administration and services. The reforms haveaimed to reduce public employment and the associated costs, improve efficiency and increase customer orientation. In many cases, public services have been privatised or hived off to other bodies. The economic crisis and the steep rise in public debt has seen further reforms, as governments to try to reduce public expenditure by introducing freezes and reductions in pay and employment for public servants.

Eurofound’s research on reforms in central public administration aims to expand our knowledge of a part of the public sector that has been less researched to date – the administrative organisations that operate at different levels and have a hierarchical dependence on political decision-making (usually, the ministries of government).

The scope of central public administration is not clear-cut. A single agreed definition is lacking, varying according to country and to the country’s historical, cultural and political context. Even a national definition usually does not exist, and indeed, the term is not used in many countries; some refer instead to federal administration, state administration or public service. A working paper sets out the definition Eurofound has established for its research on the sector.

Case studies from  Finland, Germany, Ireland and Luxembourg examine the impact of reform on working conditions and industrial relations in each country’s central public administration. The case studies compare the situation before and after the reforms, and describe the involvement of the social partners in the reform processes. Each case study presents an analysis of the impact of the reforms at sectoral level, looking at the general framework and outcomes of reform, alongside a study conducted at workplace level in one unit, institution or department.

The annex outlines the division of central public administration across national, regional and local level in the 27 EU Member States.

Another recent report on Working conditions in central public administration sets out to provide an overview of the main causes and reasons for change in central public administration in all European member states plus Norway. It also looks at the impact these changes have had on the sector's working conditions, as well as exploring how this situation is expected to evolve.