This report identifies initiatives in developing countries which seek to attract, develop and retain indigenous or ethnic minority employees in the public sector workforce. This is supported with a brief overview of lessons learned from similar programmes in Australia, which are largely considered successful. The paper concentrates on civil service and central government positions rather than government services such as health and education.
The strongest examples come from Australia and India. In general, most policies are targeted recruitment and quota systems; the literature is very weak on professional development, retention and career progression once in employment. Drawing from the literature, some of the identified best practice and lessons learnt include:
- Affirmative action policies are generally considered effective, with strong evidence from Malaysia that they can be highly successful when well enforced and over a long time period (30 years).
- Strong leadership from central government appears to have played a role in successful implementation of programmes.
- Monitoring and punitive measures have been effective in South Africa to ensure compliance.
- Affirmative action has usually resulted in increased numbers of minority groups, but these are frequently concentrated in lower-level jobs. There is a lack of progression of indigenous peoples through the ‘glass ceiling’ and into managerial positions.
- Affirmative action has sometimes caused resentment from other groups, who feel that they are overlooked in favour of under-qualified but quota-filling candidates.
- The skill level of indigenous peoples is a major issue in the literature on employment. There have been issues with the large-scale transition from higher-skilled employees to lower-skilled minority employees, where there has been a lack of well-qualified candidates. In some cases this results in a skills deficit in the public sector.