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Doing Better with Less? The Future of the Government Workforce

Politics of Public HRM Reforms in 32 Countries

Christoph Demmke

This publication contributes to a discussion about the future of public employment and HR policies in the context of a changing statehood and new financial pressures. It presents comparative quantitative and qualitative data in the field of public employment and human resources management. These data were collected through the OECD «2015 Survey on Managing Budgeting Constraints: Implications for HRM and Employment in Central Public Administration».

This book provides an improved understanding of the broad reform trends that have affected public employment and human resources management across OECD member countries since the 2008 financial crisis. It challenges many popular assumptions, increasingly puts into question traditional characteristics of public administration systems and provides answers as to many outcomes of HR reforms.

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1. Introduction


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1.  Introduction

The study of public management and HRM has long concentrated on the state as a sovereign authority—“the Leviathan”. The word “leviathan” has become a synonymous with any large monster or creature. Since Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan, published in 1651, it has also become a synonym for a powerful state with a strong, undivided government run by an absolute sovereign who rules and protects the country and is separated from the society. Indeed, for a long time, public employment features were characterized by hierarchical organisational structures, centralized approaches, standardized and highly-regulated HR policies, specific recruitment systems, clear and rigid career paths, lifetime tenure and seniority in pay and pension systems. Overall, HR policies were designed to meet the needs of a sovereign state that is exercising public powers and safeguarding the national interest. Also the (claimed) results of the Hawthorne-experiments in the 1920’s led to few changes in public personnel administration. At least until the second world-war, the concept of public HRM was based on the traditional nation-state philosophy, the concepts of taylorism, fordism and bureaucracy, the rule of law and the social-contract doctrine according to the “leviathan” model. Even long after the second-world war, the popularity of the Human Resource Movement did not change most HR practices, which continued to focus on extrinsic motivators.

Nowadays, the concepts of the social-contract doctrine, sovereignty, the nation-state, nationality, public powers, safeguarding general interests, public tasks, carrying out public tasks, high performance work systems...

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