Representative Bureaucracy in Action

Representative Bureaucracy in Action

Country Profiles from the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia

Edited by B. Guy Peters, Patrick von Maravić and Eckhard Schröter

Taking a comparative and analytical perspective, the authoritatively, yet accessibly written, country chapters show how salient the politics of representativeness have become in increasingly diverse societies. At the same time, they illustrate the wide variety of practice based on different political systems, administrative structures, and cultural settings.

Chapter 5: Representative bureaucracy in Belgium: power sharing or diversity?

Steven van de Walle, Sandra Groeneveld and Lieselot Vandenbussche

Subjects: politics and public policy, international politics, public policy


For a long time the question of representativeness in the Belgian administration has been dominated by the cultural–linguistic cleavage that divides the Dutch-speaking Flemings and the French-speaking Walloons. Since 1960 this cleavage has become, and still is, a central issue in the organization of the political and administrative structure of the Belgian state (Heisler, 1977). The polity of the current Federal Belgium is a result of different state reforms aimed at pacifying the relations between the two dominant language communities, the Flemings and the Walloons. Over time, the two language groups have received rights and protection in the different aspects of the public sector in Belgium. Various policy measures and a comprehensive Language Law regulate the representation of Dutch-speakers and French-speakers in the parliament, the executive, and public employment (Deschouwer, 2004). Only recently has representativeness in the Belgian public sector got a wider interpretation. Since about 2004, the Federal government also has a diversity policy that is explicitly aimed at establishing a representative civil service, i.e. a representative bureaucracy.

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