Public service as an employer of choice


In 1998, GOV launched a survey on changes in the employment status in public administrations in selected member countries. The results of that survery were published in the report "Trends in Human Resources Management in the Public Sector", which deals with government's policies to retain a skilled workforce. 

Most OECD member countries are facing, or will be facing, difficulties in recruiting and retaining civil servants, in particular those who are highly skilled. The OECD survey shows that several countries including Canada, Denmark, Finland and Sweden are already experiencing this problem. In other countries, recruitment and retention is not a problem at the moment largely due to a decreased number of government positions. But these countries anticipate that they will also confront the same challenges in a few years' time. In addition, some countries suffer from critical skills shortages, in the areas of IT specialists, technical experts, and auditors and economists, etc.

To help governments enhance the competitiveness of public employment and improve professionalism in the public service, the OECD conducted a project on the "Competitive Public Employer" in 2001. The project identified some reasons underlying these problems. They are:

  • Because of a demographic bulge, a large portion of employees will retire soon.
  • Wages are low, and government has lost competitiveness as an employer.
  • The image of the public sector is negative and getting worse.
  • Old-fashioned HR management deters high-quality staff.

The preliminary conclusions for resolving the challenges and problems are as follows:

  • Improving the Image of the Public Sector is one of the most important challenges.
  • Surveys are a good way to identify critical issues for further development.
  • Creating Better Working Conditions is a pre-requisite.
  • Improving Professionalism in the Public Service is a longer-term strategy.
  • Reforming HRM Systems is a fundamental step.

For this project, eleven country cases were collected including Austria, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Korea, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.

Overview report (également disponible en français)

Country case studies

Disponible en français :


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