Productivity in the civil service: Understanding the impact of payroll reform on worker performance

Project Active from to State

The provision of public services depends critically on the skills and motivation of the agents tasked with providing them. And yet, civil servant underperformance plagues many countries, with cross-national studies reporting average daily absenteeism rates among public health workers and teachers of 19 and 35 percent, respectively.

This project covers the initial steps to assemble the data required to analyse the impacts of a nation-wide reform of civil service salaries and allowances in Zambia. Prior to the reform, wages were the result of collective bargaining process and so varied widely, even within similar job posts. As a consequence of the reform, civil servants experienced an average wage increase of 45% (IMF Country Report No. 14/5 - January 2014), though the increase varied greatly across position, ranging from 4% to 287%. During this initial stage of the project, we will concentrate on assembling and cleaning the data, and identifying relevant sources of outcome measures, including performance metrics such as absenteeism and impacts such as test scores.

Given the widespread nature of the reform and its potentially mixed consequences, identifying causal impacts is of interest both to researchers and to the Government of Zambia. Not only will the results of our study contribute to researchers’ understanding of the connection between employee compensation and effort, they will have significant implications for future salary adjustments and other policy interventions in Zambia.