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The State at Work, Volume 2

Comparative Public Service Systems

Edited by Hans-Ulrich Derlien and B. Guy Peters

Representing the most extensive research on public employment, this volume explores the radical changes that have taken place in the configuration of national public services due to a general expansion of public employment that was followed by stagnation and decreases. Part-time employment and the involvement of women also increased as a component of the public sector and were linked to the most important growth areas such as the educational, health care and personal social services sectors. The two volumes that make up this study shed important insight on these changes.
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Chapter 5: Local Government Employment

Jon Pierre


Jon Pierre If central government and the senior civil service is the general staff of the state, local governments and their employees are clearly the army. This is where most of the public services are delivered, where the large number of public employees can be found and where most of the exchange between state and citizenry takes place. It is also at the local level, as we will come back to later, that citizens participate in political life and become trained in democracy. But local government is more than a set of implementing structures; professionalism in local government has increased considerably during the post-war period along with the increasing size of the public sector in many countries (Laffin 1986; Sharpe 1998; Ashford 1990). Indeed, in many national contexts it probably makes more sense to talk of a division of labour among different levels of government than of a hierarchy in which only the higher echelons of government are characterized by expertise, professionalism, research and policy planning. The increasing attention on ‘multi-level governance’ (Marks et al. 1996; Scharpf 1997; Pierre and Stoker 2000) as a feature of intergovernmental relationships in the EU is proof both of these developments and also the increasingly negotiated nature of relationships between institutions at different levels of the political system. This chapter offers a preliminary analysis of employment in local government in selected western democracies. It reports primarily on employment in local government as a percentage of total public employment, a statistic...

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