Thoughts on economics and liberty

The Agility of Modern Public Services #6

Graduate Intake into Specific Positions, Not into a ‘Service’

Similar on the surfaceto recruitment into the IAS, graduate recruitment programmes in the Australian public services take in some of the best graduates available in the country or state after a gruelling system of tests and interviews (noting that there is no minimum or maximum age requirement, and final selection decision rests with the relevant departmental manager). Recruits are provided an on-the-job training for one year through job rotation in different roles in different departments, as well as induction which is provided by professional trainers hired by the public service authorities.[i] But the system diverges radically after that from the Indian one.
 
After the twelve months, those who meet requirements are confirmed into a junior professional (tenured) position in their recruiting department. Alternatively, the better ones are ‘bid’ up, i.e. paid more, and picked up by competing departments. At that stage they earn approximately what a new school teacher gets. Many of these recruits choose not to continue with the government and move permanently into the private sector. Others try out the private sector a few years later and then possibly return again to the public sector, later; given the complete flexibility of the labour market.

Most relevant to India, this system does not guarantee promotions to the freshly appointed recruits. As appointments are made to particular positions, not to a service, these recruits cannot move into senior executive positions as a matter of right like in the IAS. On the other hand, those who are ambitious and competent advance very rapidly into senior executive roles even within ten years, unlike in India where it could take up to 20 years to reach similar levels of responsibility. In that sense there is no ‘ladder’ to climb here, rung by rung; only a rope that anyone can scramble up as quickly as their competence and ambition lets them. Some secretaries to the government here, with responsibilities equivalent to that of as many as five secretaries to the Government of India, combined, could be as young as 38 or less, while Deputy Secretaries, with responsibilities comparable to those of five Joint Secretaries in the Government of India, combined could be as young as 35. From day one, it is clear to everyone that their future in the public services is determined exclusivelyby their own effort and merit, not by any automatic chain of progression of every ‘batch’.

[Note: This is an extract from my book, Breaking Free of Nehru]


[i] E.g. see the Victorian graduate recruitment scheme at  [http://www.graduates.vic.gov.au/].

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