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European Civil Services between Tradition and Reform

Christoph Demmke
ISBN 13 978-90-6779-185-4 EIPA Code #: 2004/01 Year: 2004 Pages: 202

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Available also in German
This publication contrasts with the many popular and speculative statements that too often capture the headlines on the future of the civil service and the different HRM-reforms. Instead, it is a measured conclusion about new trends and developments in this important policy area.
The author argues that the reform of the public sector will not, as many have predicted, be characterised by clear changes and progress in the area. Instead, the outcomes of the reform reveal a more complex picture of piecemeal and paradox patterns of change.
In the 21st century, demographic developments, growing expectations from citizens, the introduction of new technologies, individualisation, delegation and decentralisation, financial pressures and internationalisation trends have become the determining factors of change in the public service. Today, reform measures promote the deconstruction and the decentralisation of the civil service at all fronts. In addition, public policies are administered through increasingly complex networks, decentralised governance structures, public-private partnerships and cooperations between NGOs, consultants and Government. The traditional central concept of the public service as a single, unified employer is also disappearing.
The theoretical assumption in this publication is that �" although there are good reasons for criticising traditional public services �" most reform strategies and reform language are full of "proverbs" and the results of the reform trajectories seem to produce as many problems as suggestions for improvement. Especially the call for more europeanisation, flexibility, innovation, change, performance and less bureaucracy are very general and lack a specific knowledge about the nature of public sector employment and civil service structures. More than this, "the reform process" lacks a conceptual understanding about its own concepts.
In addition, civil service and Human Resource Management reforms are planned as political, judicial and economical reforms. The combination between financial pressures, a bad image of the public service and hasty reforms means that reform strategies in the civil service and HRM reforms are often based too little on rational debates and clear-cut facts. Often, it seems that the wish for new public management says more about our aspirations, beliefs and culture than about the real need for reforms.