Growing the Productivity of Government Services

Growing the Productivity of Government Services

Patrick Dunleavy and Leandro Carrera

Productivity is essentially the ratio of an organization’s outputs divided by its inputs. For many years it was treated as always being static in government agencies. In fact productivity in government services should be rising rapidly as a result of digital changes and new management approaches, and it has done so in some agencies. However, Dunleavy and Carrera show for the first time how complex are the factors affecting productivity growth in government organizations – especially management practices, use of IT, organizational culture, strategic mis-decisions and political and policy churn.

Chapter 5: How productivity can remain unchanged despite major investments – social security

Patrick Dunleavy and Leandro Carrera

Subjects: economics and finance, public finance, public sector economics, politics and public policy, public policy, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy


Modern social security systems are the largest distributive counterpart of the government’s capacity to raise taxes. Any welfare state is at root a system in which resources are requisitioned from those in work or on higher incomes, as well as from companies and from the well off, and then redistributed to the elderly, sick and disabled people, those unlucky in seeking work, and families or children in low- income households. Much of this redistribution is achieved through public services, supplied to all citizens by government agencies or by private organizations in ways that are funded, regulated and shaped by government. However, most social security transfer payments across the world are mediated in much less complex ways. Especially in simpler and more ‘statist’ welfare systems (such as that in the UK), monies are moved from the taxation department to a social security department, whose officials then allocate state benefits directly to eligible individuals or households. In more complex European welfare states such direct government transfer payments are often smaller because the state essentially supplements the social insurance that individuals have themselves taken out with other voluntary or quasi- private organizations, such as insurance funds, trade unions or social housing providers. But even here, the non- governmental providers are almost always organized in government- regulated schemes that are also underpinned in financial and risk- assurance terms by taxpayers.

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