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The Scope of the Civil Service in OECD and Select CEE Countries

This page presents information for OECD countries and eight countries of Central and Eastern Europe for which data are available.

According to the four civil service criteria presented on the page Civil Service Law & Employment Regimes, nearly all OECD countries have legislation that provides civil servant status for some employees. The exceptions are New Zealand, Czech Republic, and Switzerland. [In New Zealand and the Czech Republic all public sector staffs are covered by the general labor law. Switzerland is a borderline case as recent legal changes have removed tenure and introduced individual labor contracts for all Confederation employees, including those of the courts, post office, railways etc.]

We have data for 26 of the 27 OECD countries with national civil service legislation. (The Slovak Republic reportedly approved civil service legislation in early 2001, but its provisions have not been assessed for this study.) We also have data for eight Central and Eastern European countries. From the resulting sample of 34 countries, the national civil service legislation:

  1. defines job duties and responsibilities in 25 cases;
  2. delimits tenure and security in 29 cases;
  3. sets out disciplinary arrangements in 25 cases; and
  4. determines the methods for setting rewards and wage-bargaining in 28 cases. (See Table 1 below.)

From the same sample of 34 countries:

  1. health employees are considered national civil servants in 14 cases;
  2. education employees (teachers) are national civil servants in 16 cases;
  3. police in 22 cases;
  4. and subnational government employees (excluding education, health, and police) are defined as national civil servants in 18 cases. Meanwhile, in 11 cases there is a separate civil service for subnational government.
    (See
    Table 2 below.)

The judiciary in the OECD are rarely civil servants. However, they are often subject to civil service-like arrangements that define their employment status. This is generally provided by a "judicial career law," which applies to judges at all levels from traffic court to Supreme Court justices, although rarely to constitutional court judges. Judicial support staff (court administrators, etc.) are often civil servants -- but this is not inevitable and practice varies widely. As there are no comprehensive data on the status of the judiciary, these are not included in Table 2.

SOE employees and the military are also excluded from Table 2, as there are many specific nuances and exceptions on employment status of these two groups. It is, of course, possible for all public employees to be treated as civil servants. However, even in settings with the most comprehensive coverage of civil service (Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Sweden and Luxembourg -- see Table 2 below), employees of state-owned enterprises are usually subject to different legislation. Usually it is the same general labor law that governs employment contracts in the private sector.

Table 1:                                                                                                             

Content of Civil Service Legislation in OECD
and Select CEE Countries
1

Country Job duties & ResponsibilitiesTenure & Security 2Disciplinary Arrangements3Rewards & Wage BargainingCareer System
ClosedOpen Recruitment
Australia         
Austria  
Belgium  
Canada         
Denmark  
Finland  
France  
Germany  
Greece  
Hungary    
Iceland         
Ireland    
Italy  
Japan  
Korea  4
Luxembourg  
Mexico           
Netherlands  
Norway          
Poland    
Portugal    
Spain    
Sweden    
Turkey               
U.K.  
U.S.A.       
Select Non-OECD Central & Eastern European Countries
Albania    
Bulgaria    
Estonia    
FYROM         
Latvia    
Lithuania    
Romania    

Slovenia

         

General labor law employees have only the responsibility to fulfill their labor contract. Civil servants can be given an over-arching duty to serve the state or the government of the day.

Legislation can also set out the arrangements for tenure and job security. General labor law employees can be dismissed by the employer in line with their labor contract subject to some general minimum standards (although there can be some form of tenure in the labor law linked to age and length of employment). Civil servants generally have greater protections that require comprehensive legal and administrative due process before they can be dismissed.

Disciplinary arrangements can also be covered by the legislation. Their employer can discipline general labor law employees in any legal manner subject to collective bargaining agreements, although judicial review is often possible under general labor law. By contrast, civil servants can be disciplined according to specific legislated disciplinary provisions. Usually these are defined as: reprimand; partial loss of salary; downgrading; or dismissal.

Rewards and wage-bargaining are often also covered by civil service legislation. General labor law employees can be rewarded in any manner subject to minimum wage legislation and collective bargaining agreements. Civil servants can have rewards packages reflecting factors other than market conditions. Generally, civil service remuneration is determined by legislation. Trade unions have usually only a consultative role.

Table 2: Who has civil servant status?                                            

Groups of public employees covered by the same civil service legislation as civilian central government employees

Country Health EmployeesEducation EmployeesPolice Subnational Government
(excluding education, heatlh, & police)
covered by same legislation as civilian central government?separate civil service legislation offering similar, but distinct status?
Australia     
Austria  
Belgium       
Canada       
Denmark  
Finland       
France  
Germany  
Greece  
Hungary     
Iceland     
Ireland       
Italy  
Japan  
Korea  
Luxembourg  
Mexico  
Netherlands       
Norway          
Poland     
Portugal   
Spain   
Sweden  
Turkey      
U.K.    
U.S.A.       
Select Non-OECD Central & Eastern European Countries
Albania     
Bulgaria     
Estonia     
FYROM       
Latvia       
Lithuania     
Romania       

Slovenia

   

Where there is a civil service, then this legislation always covers the permanent employees of civilian central government and, in some settings, subnational government. Often teachers, health professionals, and the police are excluded. (See Cross-National Data on Government Employment & Wages for further clarification.)

Comments and additional data are most welcome. Please click here to send us an email.

Notes                                                                                                                

1 The empirical data presented in this table (and the one below) draw from material kindly provided by OECD PUMA and SIGMA. The authors take full responsibility for any errors. The specific content of civil service legislation varies widely. Therefore, the presense of a check mark in the same column does not indicate a close similarity between country situations. The Appendix lists the specific laws covering the civil service in these countries.
2 Tenure and security does not imply that civil servants cannot be dismissed.
3 Disciplinary arrangements may apply only to some groups of civil servants.
4
Twenty percent of top government posts in Korea are open, making Korea's career system both open and closed.

Appendix                                                                                                              

Legal Basis of the Civil Service
OECD
Australia Public Services Act, 1999
AustriaPublic Service Code
BelgiumConstitution sets out the basic principles for the civil service.
CanadaPublic Service Act
Czech Republicno civil service law exists
DenmarkConstitution; Civil Service Law of 1969
FinlandConstitution; State Civil Servants Act (750/94)
FranceFrench constitution (art. 34 para III); General civil service statute and specific statutes for the three civil service groups; Public Service Code
GermanyGerman Basic Law (art. 33); Civil Servants Laws
GreeceConstitution (art. 103 and 104); Public Service Code
HungaryCivil Servants Law of 1992 (separate law covering public servants)
Iceland1996 Civil Service Act
IrelandSub-legislation
ItalyCivil Service Law of 1993
JapanConstitution; National Public Services Law
KoreaInformation taken from the "Civil Service Commission" Government of Korea
LuxembourgConstitution lays down the basic principles for the civil service Public Service Code
MexicoFederal Law on Responsibilities of Public Workers
The NetherlandsConstitution; CSA 1929; General Civil Service Regulations
New ZealandEmployment Relations Act, 2000
Norway Civil Service Act
PolandCivil Service Act, December 1999; and Public Service Act
PortugalConstitution (art. 266, 267, 268, 269, 271); The Decree on General Principles for the Public Service
SpainConstitution; Public Service Code
SwedenConstitution; Public Employment Act
TurkeyThe Code of Civil servants (Law No. 657); Law No. 3628 on Disclosure of Assets and Combating Bribery and Corruption
U.K. Sub-legislation; Public service reservation stipulated in Art. 48(4) ECT.
U.S.A.Civil Service Law of 1978
Select Non-OECD Central & Eastern European Countries
AlbaniaCivil Service Law of 1999 (article 2-1)
BulgariaCivil Service Law of 1999
EstoniaCivil Service Law of 1995
FYROMDraft civil service law
LatviaState Civil Service Law
LithuaniaCivil Service Law (law on "public service"), July 1999
RomaniaCivil Service Law of 1999

Slovenia

Law on Workers in State Organs (LWSO, 190); Draft law on civil service under preparation.


This page was prepared by Staffan Synnerstrom (SIGMA), Kathy Lalazarian and Nick Manning, with Neil Parison and Jeffrey Rinne (World Bank). The page draws extensively on detailed information provided by OECD SIGMA and PUMA, through work led by Kirsi Aijala. It also reflects other comments made by SIGMA staff, and additional material from the Department for Government, Labour Law & Administration (GLLAD/ILO).  It was submitted on 26 April 2001




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