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Public Servant

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Public Servant

Not to be confused with Alternative civilian service.
For the album by Typical Cats, see Civil Service (album).

The term civil service can refer to either: a) A branch of governmental service in which individuals are employed on the basis of professional merit as proven by competitive examinations, or b) the body of employees in any government agency other than the military.

A civil servant or public servant is a person in the public Sector employed for a government department or agency. The extent of civil servants of a state as part of the "Civil Service" varies from country to country. In the United Kingdom, for instance, only Crown employees are referred to as civil servants whereas county or city employees are not.

Many consider the study of civil service to be a part of the field of public administration. Workers in "non-departmental public bodies" (sometimes called "QUANGOs") may also be classed as civil servants for the purpose of statistics and possibly for their terms and conditions. Collectively a state's civil servants form its Civil Service or Public Service.

An international civil servant or international staff member is a civilian employee that is employed by an international organization.[1] These international civil servants do not resort under any national legislation (from which they have immunity of jurisdiction) but are governed by an internal staff regulation. All disputes related to international civil service are brought before special tribunals created by these international organizations such as, for instance, the Administrative Tribunal of the ILO.[2]

Specific referral can be made to the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) of the United Nations, an independent expert body established by the United Nations General Assembly. Its mandate is to regulate and coordinate the conditions of service of staff in the United Nations common system, while promoting and maintaining high standards in the international civil service.


Early history

Administrative institutions usually grow out of the personal servants of high officials, as in the Roman Empire. This developed a complex administrative structure, which is outlined in the Notitia Dignitatum and the work of John Lydus, but as far as we know appointments to it were made entirely by inheritance or patronage and not on merit, and it was also possible for officers to employ other people to carry out their official tasks but continue to draw their salary themselves. There are obvious parallels here with the early bureaucratic structures in modern states, such as the Office of Works or the Navy in 18th century England, where again appointments depended on patronage and were often bought and sold.

Modern meritocratic civil service

The origin[3] of the modern meritocratic civil service can be traced back to Imperial examination founded in Imperial China. The Imperial exam based on merit[4] was designed to select the best administrative officials for the state's bureaucracy. This system had a huge influence on both society and culture in Imperial China and was directly responsible for the creation of a class of scholar-bureaucrats irrespective of their family pedigree.[5]

From the time of the Han Dynasty (206 BC to AD 220) until the implementation of the imperial examination system, most appointments in the imperial bureaucracy were based on recommendations from prominent aristocrats and local officials whilst recommended individuals were predominantly of aristocratic rank. Emperor Wu of Han started an early form of the imperial examinations, transitioning from inheritance and patronage to merit, in which local officials would select candidates to take part in an examination of the Confucian classics.[5] The system reached its apogee during the Song dynasty.[6]

The Chinese civil-service system gave the Chinese empire stability for more than 2,000 years and provided one of the major outlets for social mobility in Chinese society.[7]

The modern examination system for selecting civil service staff also indirectly evolved from the imperial one.[8] This system was admired and then borrowed by European countries from the 16th century onward,[9] and is now the model for most countries around the world. The first European power to successfully implement the meritocratic civil service was the British Empire, in their administration of India: "company managers hired and promoted employees based on competitive examinations in order to prevent corruption and favoritism."[10] British colonial administrators in China advocated the spread of the system to the rest of the Commonwealth, the most prominent of which was Thomas Taylor Meadows, Britain's consul in Guangzhou, China. Meadows successfully argued in his Desultory Notes on the Government and People of China, published in 1847, that "the long duration of the Chinese empire is solely and altogether owing to the good government which consists in the advancement of men of talent and merit only," and that the British must reform their civil service by making the institution meritocratic.[11] The report was influential. The British adopted a meritocratic civil service following the Northcote-Trevelyan Report in 1853, and the Americans did likewise in 1883, with the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act.

By countries



Main article: Brazilian civil Service

Civil servants in Brazil, Servidores públicos in Portuguese, are those working in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the federal government, state government, municipal government and the Government of Brasilia, including congressmen, senators, mayors, ministers, the president of the republic, and workers in Government-owned corporation.

Career civil servants (not temporary workers or politicians) are hired only externally on the basis of entrance examinations known as Concurso Público in Portuguese, usually consisting of a written test, also some posts may require physical tests (like policemen) or oral tests (like judges, prosecutors and attorneys). The position according to the examination score is used for filling the vacancies.

The entrance examination are conducted by several companies with a government mandate; the best known are CESPE (which belongs to the University of Brasilia), the FGV (Getulio Vargas Foundation), ESAF, and the Cesgranrio Foundation (which is part of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro).

The labour laws and social insurance for civil servants are different from private workers, even between government branches (like different states or cities) the law and insurance differ between them.

The posts usually are ranked by titles, the most common are technician for high school literates and analyst for graduate literates. There's also high post ranks like auditor, fiscal, chief of police, prosecutor, judge, attorney, etc. Those titles may require master's degree or doctorate.

The law doesn't allow servants to upgrade or downgrade posts internally, if they want to do that they need to pass in another external entrance examination.


Canada's federal public service comprises approximately 200 departments, agencies, commissions, boards, councils, and crown corporations. There are 423,781 active contributors to the federal public service, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and Canadian Forces pension plans. This represents about 2.3 percent of the Canadian workforce of 18.7 million. Each provincial government also has its own public service. In 2010, all provincial governments' public service were employing a total of more than 350 000 people.[12]


One of the oldest examples of a civil service based on meritocracy is the Imperial bureaucracy of China, which can be traced as far back as the Qin Dynasty (221–207 BC). During the Han Dynasty (202 BC–220 AD) the xiaolian system of recommendation by superiors for appointments to office was established. In the areas of administration, especially the military, appointments were based solely on merit.

After the fall of the Han Dynasty, the Chinese bureaucracy regressed into a semi-merit system known as the Nine-rank system; in this system noble birthright became the most significant prerequisite for gaining access to more authoritative posts.

This system was reversed during the short-lived Sui Dynasty (581–618), which initiated a civil service bureaucracy recruited through written examinations and recommendation. The following Tang Dynasty (618–907) adopted the same measures for drafting officials, and decreasingly relied on aristocratic recommendations and more and more on promotion based on the results of written examinations.

However, the civil service examinations were practiced on a much smaller scale in comparison to the stronger, centralized bureaucracy of the Song Dynasty (960–1279). In response to the regional military rule of jiedushi and the loss of civil authority during the late Tang period and Five Dynasties (907–960), the Song emperors were eager to implement a system where civil officials would owe their social prestige to the central court and gain their salaries strictly from the central government. This ideal was not fully achieved since many scholar officials were affluent landowners and were engaged in many anonymous business affairs in an age of economic revolution in China. Nonetheless, gaining a degree through three levels of examination — prefectural exams, provincial exams, and the prestigious palace exams — was a far more desirable goal in society than becoming a merchant. This was because the mercantile class was traditionally regarded with some disdain by the scholar official class. This class of state bureaucrats in the Song period were far less aristocratic than their Tang predecessors. The examinations were carefully structured in order to ensure that people of lesser means than what was available to candidates born into wealthy, landowning families were given a greater chance to pass the exams and obtain an official degree. This included the employment of a bureau of copyists who would rewrite all of the candidates' exams in order to mask their handwriting and thus prevent favoritism by graders of the exams who might otherwise recognize a candidate's handwriting. The advent of widespread printing in the Song period allowed many more examination candidates access to the Confucian texts whose mastery was required for passing the exams.


Main article: French Civil Service

The civil service in France (fonction publique) is often incorrectly considered to include all government employees including employees of public corporations, such as SNCF.


The Public service in Germany (Öffentlicher Dienst) is run by 4.6 million employees as of 2011.[13] Public servants are distinguished into three groups of occupational statuses: Arbeiter ("blue-collar workers"), Angestellte ("salaried employees") and Beamte. All three groups are employed by Körperschaften des öffentlichen Rechts (kreise (counties), states, federal government etc.).

Arbeiter in public service serve mostly in low-skilled labour such as construction, waste collection or manual office work. In some cases, training is not obligatory.

Angestellte work in technical, vocational and office work in a very large range of occupational fields. In most cases, they have received a training aside from the government prior to employment.

Beamte are known for several centuries in German states, but became a standarized group in 1794. Soldiers other than conscriptive soldiers are not Beamte but have according rights. Judges and public attorneys are all Beamte, while professors are mostly Beamte. The group of Beamte have the most secure employment and are paid by a scheme of Besoldungsordnungen. It is prohibited for Beamte to take strike action.

Arbeiter and Angestelle work with individual contracts, while Beamte are appointed, employed and removed by law (öffentlich-rechtliches Dienst- und Treueverhältnis).


Controversies about the institution of the Civil Service in Greece are widespread. Typically, they concern the large numbers of public employees, the lack of adequate meritocracy in their employment, the strong ties that significant portions of public employees maintain with political parties and the clientelism that this relationship incubates, internal inequalities of wages among public employees, and inequalities of the high income of public employees relevant to that of private sector workers. The Civil Service payscale is also controversial given the conditions before the financial crisis that made being a civil servant a dream-job.


In India, the Civil Service is defined as "appointive positions by the Government in connection with the affairs of the Union and includes a civilian in a Defence Service, except positions in the Indian Armed Forces." The members of civil service serve at the pleasure of the President of India and Article 311 of the constitution protects them from politically motivated or vindictive action.

The Civil Services of India can be classified into two types - the All India Services and the Central Civil Services (Group A and B). The recruits are university graduates (or above) selected through a rigorous system of examinations, called the Civil Services Examination (CSE) and its technical counterpart known as the Engineering Services Examination (ESE) both conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). The entry into the State Civil Services is through a competitive examination conducted by every state public service commission.

Senior positions in civil service are listed and named in the Order of Precedence of India.


The civil service of Ireland includes the employees of the Department of State (excluded are government ministers and a small number of paid political advisors) as well as a small number of core state agencies such as the Office of the Revenue Commissioners, the Office of Public Works, and the Public Appointments Service. The organisation of the Irish Civil Service is very similar to the traditional organization of the British Home Civil Service, and indeed the grading system in the Irish Civil Service is nearly identical to the traditional grading system of its British counterpart. In Ireland, public sector employees such as teachers or members of the country's police force, An Garda Síochána are not considered to be civil servants, but are rather described as "public servants" (and form the Public service of the Republic of Ireland).



The civil service in Spain (función pública) is usually considered to include all the employees at the different levels of the Spanish Public Administration: central government, autonomous communities, as well as municipalities. There are three main categories of Spanish public positions: temporary political posts ("personal funcionario eventual"), which require a simple procedure for hire and dismiss and is associated to top level executives and advisors, statutory permanent posts ("funcionarios de carrera"), which require a formal procedure for access that usually involves a competition among candidates and whose tenants are subject to a special statutory relationship of work with their employers, and non statutory permanent posts ("personal laboral"), which also require a formal procedure for entry similar to the procedure required for the "funcionarios de carrera", but whose tenants are subject to normal working conditions and laws. Competitions differ notably among the State, the 17 Autonomous Communities and the City Councils, and the "funcionarios de carrera" and "personal laboral" examinations vary in difficulty from one location to another.

As of 2011, there were 2.6 Million civil servants in Spain (22% work for the central state, 50% for the Autonomous communities, 4% for the Universities and 22% for local organization such as municipalities and provinces).[14]

In December 2011, the government of Rajoy announced that civil servants have to serve a minimum 37.5 working hours per week regardless of their place or kind of service.[14]

United Kingdom

The civil service in the United Kingdom only includes Crown employees; not those who are parliamentary employees. Public sector employees such as those in education and the NHS are not considered to be civil servants. Note that civil servants in the devolved government in Northern Ireland are not part of the Home Civil Service, but constitute the separate Northern Ireland Civil Service nor are employees of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

United States

Main article: United States civil service

In the Hatch Act of 1939, civil servants are not allowed to engage in political activities while performing their duties.

The U.S. civil service includes the Competitive service and the Excepted service. The majority of civil service appointments in the U.S. are made under the Competitive Service, but certain categories in the Diplomatic Service, the FBI, and other National Security positions are made under the Excepted Service. (U.S. Code Title V)

U.S. state and local government entities often have competitive civil service systems that are modeled on the national system, in varying degrees.

As of January 2007, the Federal Government, excluding the Postal Service, employed about 1.8 million civilian workers. The Federal Government is the Nation's single largest employer. Although most federal agencies are based in the Washington D.C. region, only about 16% (or about 288,000) of the federal government workforce is employed in this region.[15]

There are currently 15 federal executive branch agencies and hundreds of subagencies.[16]

European Union

The European Civil Service is the civil service serving the institutions of the European Union, of which the largest employer is the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union. It is the permanent bureaucracy that implements the decisions of the Union's government.

Civil servants are recruited directly into the institutions after being selected by competitions set by EPSO, the official selection office. They are allocated to departments, known as Directorates-General (DGs), each covering one or more related policy areas.

See also


Further reading

  • Albrow, M., Bureaucracy (1970)
  • Armstrong, J. A., The European Administrative Elite (1973)
  • Bodde, D.,
  • Brownlow, Louis, Charles E. Merriam, and Luther Gulick, Report of the President's Committee on Administrative Management. (1937)
  • du Gay, P., In Praise of Bureaucracy: Weber, Organisation, Ethics (2000)
  • du Gay, P., ed., The Values of Bureaucracy (2005)
  • Hoogenboom, Ari, Outlawing the Spoils: A History of the Civil Service Reform Movement, 1865-1883. (1961)
  • Mathur, P.N., The Civil Service of India, 1731-1894: a study of the history, evolution and demand for reform (1977)
  • Schiesl, Martin, The Politics of Efficiency: Municipal Administration and Reform in America, 1880-1920. (1977)
  • Sullivan, Ceri, Literature in the Public Service: Sublime Bureaucracy (2013)
  • Theakston, Kevin, The Civil Service Since 1945 (Institute of Contemporary British History, 1995)
  • Van Riper, Paul. History of the United States Civil Service (1958).
  • White, Leonard D., Introduction to the Study of Public Administration. (1955)
  • White, Leonard D., Charles H. Bland, Walter R. Sharp, and Fritz Morstein Marx; Civil Service Abroad, Great Britain, Canada, France, Germany (1935) online

External links


  • The U.K Civil Service, official site
  • UK Civil Service: constitution, behaviour and reform
  • Indian Civil Service
  • - Public Sector news and features
  • Brazilian Civil servents
  • -logo.svg 
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