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The Global Survey of Public Servants: Leveraging public servant insights for more effective public administration

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The Global Survey of Public Servants: Leveraging public servant insights for more effective public administration The Global Survey of Public Servants will be launched on Wednesday, May 29th at 9:45AM (EST) during the Public Administration Global Forum. Image: Shutterstock

Understanding how public administrations around the world function and differ is crucial for strengthening their effectiveness. Traditional methods of evaluating these entities have relied on the perspectives of experts, households and firms, which, while informative, often lack the granularity needed for actionable insights at the country level.

The Global Survey of Public Servants ( takes a different approach, by engaging directly with the individuals at the heart of public administration: the public servants themselves.

This approach provides a unique vantage point, offering individual-level insights into aspects of the public sector that are experienced by officials themselves. These include the quality of management practices and the attitudes and behaviours of public servants themselves — for instance, their work motivation, integrity, or wellbeing.

By collecting and harmonizing extensive survey data directly from public servants, the Global Survey of Public Servants facilitates a comparative analysis of public administration across countries. Importantly, it reveals the variations within each country across government organizations, highlighting that on many aspects of public service, government varies far more within a country than across countries.

The Survey’s data dashboard, which is continuously expanding, currently consolidates responses from over 1.4 million public servants from central governments in 29 countries. This includes 10 countries implementing their own central government-wide surveys and 19 countries in which members of the Global Survey consortium comprising researchers at the World Bank, Stanford University, Nottingham University and University College London, among others — conducted surveys of public servants across central government institutions (see here and here for further details, including methodological validation exercises underpinning the survey). The figure below maps the countries in the survey.

Figure 1. Country coverage of the Global Survey of Public Servants (v2.0)

World Map showing Figure 1. Country coverage of the Global Survey of Public Servants (v2.0)

The wealth of data from these 1.4 million public servants opens several avenues to enhance our understanding of public administration and identify ways to improve it:

  1. Assessing stereotypes about public administrations using perspectives from within the public service

Common stereotypes about public administrations are numerous, but how accurate are they? The Global Survey allows us to examine these preconceptions from the perspective of public servants. One such example is the stereotype that public servants lack performance incentives at work. Our data suggests this is not quite so. In line with conventional wisdom, only a minority of public servants—31% on average across countries in our sample—believes that work performance matters for pay rises. However, contrary to stereotypes, a majority—70% on average in our sample—believes that their work performance has at least some importance for their promotion prospects. Public servants may thus not be as deprived of performance incentives as stereotypes presume.

Figure 2. Performance-based promotions, by country (% of public servants indicating that work performance is important for promotion prospects)

A bar chart showing Performance-based promotions, by country


  1. Benchmarking to help countries identify strengths and areas for improvement

Benchmarking is another key advantage of the Global Survey data. By comparing their own public administrations with others, countries can identify strengths and areas needing enhancement. Subjective aspects of the public service are often otherwise hard to make sense of. Take the example of job satisfaction. Imagine a government or organizational leader found that 60% of its public servants were satisfied with their jobs. Is this a relatively high number and thus a strength? Or a potential concern and area for development?  On average, in our sample, 78% of public servants are satisfied with their jobs. Job satisfaction falls below 60% in only one country.  Benchmarking provides the necessary context to determine whether a particular satisfaction rate is a strength or an area for improvement.

Figure 3. % of Public Servants Satisfied with their Job, by Country 

A bar chart showing Figure 3. % of Public Servants Satisfied with their Job, by Country


  1. Appreciating the diverse realities of public service organizations

The survey encompasses information about individual organizations, departments inside them, and specific groups of public servants (such as women, public servants with disabilities and others), enabling tailored diagnostics. More than 750 customized management reports have been generated for participating organizations and departments by Global Survey of Public Servant consortium members, helping them to celebrate their successes and address their unique challenges.

An example from the United Kingdom illustrates the diversity within a single government's organizations and the varying management improvements required. The figure shows the percent of public servants satisfied with their pay and benefits in different UK government organizations, as compared to other countries in the world. The figure underscores that, at the top end of organizations in the UK, more than eight out of ten public servants are satisfied with their pay, whereas at the bottom end, fewer than one in five public servants are satisfied with their pay. The distribution also shows that pay satisfaction inside the UK government across organizations varies almost as much as pay satisfaction across all governments in the Global Survey sample. Different UK government organizations thus have different management challenges — a pattern we see across countries and across the range of management practices, employee attitudes and behaviours in our survey.

Figure 4. % of Public Servants Satisfied with their Pay and Benefits, by Public Sector Organization in the United Kingdom and Countries in Global Survey Sample


The Global Survey of Public Servants not only offers cross-country comparability but also enhances the actionability of data by allowing more detailed assessments of management practices for specific organizations or groups. This initiative is part of a broader movement towards leveraging microdata — for instance, using procurement data or household survey data — to gain a more nuanced understanding of public administration operations and to drive improvements where they are most needed.

The Global Survey of Public Servants will be launched during the Public Administration Global Forum. Register here to attend the event.

Other members of the Global Survey team are Katherine Bersch, Francis Fukuyama, Kerenssa Kay, Jan Meyer-Sahling, Dinsha Mistree and Kim Sass Mikkelsen


The Global Survey of Public Servants will be launched on Wednesday, May 29th at 9:45AM (EST) during the Public Administration Global Forum: Transforming Governments for a Livable Planet. Please register to watch the event on-line. The link will be shared with you shortly before the session.


This blog post is part of a series for the 'Bureaucracy Lab', a World Bank initiative to better understand the world's public officials.

Zahid Hasnain

Lead Governance Specialist

Ayesha Khurshid

Young Professional, Governance Global Practice

Christian Schuster

Professor in Public Management, University College London

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