A study of the constraints to civil servant productivity in Ethiopia

  • Our understanding of the drivers of productivity in the public sector is limited, despite a high proportion of national income being spent through the state in many developing countries.
  • Researchers surveyed civil servants across different levels of government in Ethiopia to assess the link between incentives and productivity in the country’s public sector.
  • They identified a lack of motivation and low level of prestige as key challenges of the civil service, particularly at the federal level.
  • Competitive entry exams, allocating greater funds for key operational tasks and systems, and focusing leadership training on motivating staff are recommended as key strategies to address these challenges.

State institutions are fundamental drivers of economic growth, and in many developing countries, a high proportion of national income is spent through the state. Despite this, our understanding of the drivers of productivity in the public sector is limited.

In Ethiopia, around one-fifth of national income is directed towards public expenditure — the number of civil servants in the country has grown rapidly since 1991/92 from 223,733 in 1991 to 1,102,316 in 2013.

The government in Ethiopia introduced a range of civil service reforms to raise the productivity of these new cohorts. Improving the service delivery of these civil servants in Ethiopia is particularly important considering it still ranks near bottom globally on many social indicators, like physicians per 1,000 people and youth literacy rates.

This project, co-funded by the World Bank, assessed the link between incentives and productivity in Ethiopia’s civil service in the wake of the civil service reforms. Researchers surveyed 2,400 civil servants at various levels of government across the country.

Survey results showed that the recent reforms have generally achieved positive results with limited resources. There is relatively good alignment between making decisions and actual implementation, and practices such as targeting and monitoring are deployed relatively effectively.

However, a lack of motivation and the low level of prestige felt by workers are identified as key obstacles to further improvement, particularly at the federal level. To address these challenges, the researchers recommend establishing competitive entry exams, allocating greater funds for key operational tasks and systems, and focusing leadership training on motivating staff.

The findings of this project will continue to feed in to public sector reform in Ethiopia as it implements its Growth and Transformation Plan II. More broadly, this project informs wider discussions on inefficiency in public service delivery in developing countries, and what practical policy interventions can be made to address this.

Outputs

  • Research in progress.

    Project last updated on: 20 Nov 2018.