In many countries, discrimination in the civil service can restrict the recruitment and progression of people from ethnic and religious minorities, people with disabilities, or women. Merit-based recruitment and promotion can help address discrimination (McCourt 2007), but some efforts to enhance inclusion, such as quotas, may undermine efforts to create a purely meritocratic civil service. Reid (expert comments, April 2013) suggests it is important that these concerns are acknowledged explicitly and that equity-focused policies and programmes be accompanied with measures to monitor staff quality and ensure it remains visibly consistent.
In Malaysia, affirmative action recruitment policies targeted at bumiputra (ethnic Malays), who were discriminated against under British colonial rule, resulted in increased bumiputra representation in the civil service (Mukherjee & Adamolekun 2005). However, the declining representation of non-bumiputra caused some anger among this group, and a significant decline in their applications to government posts. In response to public disillusionment, the government began a shift away from affirmative action to a more merit-based system from around 2001.
Women can suffer from restricted career advancement even where they make up a significant proportion of the civil service. For example, a 2003 analysis of the Ethiopian Civil Service showed that, although 40% of civil servants were women, 71% of them were employed in low-level jobs earning less than Birr 400 per month (approximately US$ 47). Six percent of the male civil servants earned a salary of more than Birr 1,000 per month, as compared to only 1% of the women (AfDB, 2004). The EC (2010) and OECD (2012) both argue that increasing the number of women in senior positions, including in senior civil service management positions, is beneficial to economic stability and growth, but do not cite evidence.
The Commonwealth Secretariat’s manual on Gender Mainstreaming in the Public Service (2000) proposes that governments create a Gender Management System (GMS). This is a network of structures, mechanisms and processes to help guide, plan, monitor and evaluate gender mainstreaming. It includes:
- gender analysis, to reveal how plans, policies, and programmes affect men and women differently;
- a Management Information System to communicate critical information throughout the GMS;
- gender training, to promote gender sensitivity and provide gender analysis and planning skills; and
- a Performance Appraisal System that rewards greater gender equality and sanctions gender discrimination.
The GMS guidance document gives examples of gender-sensitive indicators. It discusses gender-related policy issues in personnel management, including training and capacity building, incentives and sanctions, staffing and conditions, discipline, and setting out an equal employment opportunities policy.
- AfDB. (2004). Ethiopia multi-sector country gender profile. African Development Bank (AfDB).See document online
- EC. (2010). More women in senior positions: Key to economic stability and growth. Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. Brussels: European Commission (EC).See document online
- McCourt, W. (2007). The merit system and integrity in the public service. Paper presented at Conference on Public Integrity and Anticorruption in the Public Service, 29-30 May, BucharestSee document online
- Mukherjee, R. & Adamolekun, L. (eds) (2005). Implementing Affirmative Action in Public Services: Comparative Administrative Practice. Wirkd Bank, South Asia Region, Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Sector Unit.See document online
- OECD. (2012). Gender equality in education, employment and entrepreneurship: Final report to the MCM 2012. C/MIN(2012)5. Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).See document online
- Commonwealth Secretariat. (2000). Gender mainstreaming in the public service: A reference manual for governments and other stakeholders. London: Commonwealth Secretariat.See document online