Table of Contents

  • Governments in OECD countries operate in an economic, social and political environment which is increasingly complex and unpredictable. In this context, governments are striving to design and implement reforms that support inclusive growth, improve access to and quality of public services while also ensuring high value for money to address persisting budget constraints. Government at a Glance 2017 provides a wealth of evidence on public practices and procedures to inform public sector reforms in member countries and partner countries. This editions contains the most recent data on public finance and public employment, as well as a number of survey data on public practices and procedures (including for instance budgeting practices and procedures, human resource management, public sector integrity, regulatory governance, open government and risk management and communication) and two chapters on results and outcomes of government operations. In this edition, the opening chapter uses indicators presented in the publication to provide policy insights on how to deal with complexity with a particular focus on integrating systems thinking and new working methods and tools in government, leveraging the wealth of data and evidence available and opening up government processes to stakeholders for better results.

  • This fifth anniversary edition of Government at a Glance comes at a time of great political, economic and social uncertainty. Ten years after the global financial crisis, the economic recovery is not robust enough to yield a durable improvement in potential output or to reduce persistent inequalities. Rapid technological change, disruptive innovation and shorter economic cycles are hallmarks of today’s world. They create new opportunities, but also make people’s lives more unpredictable and insecure. There is also a widespread perception among the population that the benefits of global economic liberalisation have been largely reaped by a few. Bridging divides among the winners from globalisation and those left vulnerable, and navigating successfully in uncertain times requires open, fair and effective public governance.

  • With the fifth edition of Government at a Glance, it is timely to reflect on the role of the publication, its progress over time and how it is different from other datasets on public governance. It is all the more timely as we witness new developments in the role of evidence in policy making. On the one hand, there is the rational approach, where evidence is used to know where we are and where we want to go. Policies and reforms are – or aspire to be – evidence based. On the other hand, there is a backlash against using scientific evidence, and in some extreme cases fake “evidence” has been created.

  • Economic growth is slowly picking up in the OECD area but the backlash against globalisation is real and must be addressed by governments. Confidence in public institutions is low, and the perception that public policies favor select interest groups has increased sharply. Shorter economic cycles, technological change and disruptive innovation have led to calls to reforms in national labour markets and social protection systems, while climate change, tax evasion and terrorism demand concerted global action. Political polarisation and citizens’ distrust in public institutions make the success of reforms more unpredictable. Strengthening, establishing dialogue with citizens through open and participative policy-making processes, and enhancing government’s capacity to choose the most appropriate policies among various options - all are key to re-connect governments with their citizenry and foster more inclusive and sustainable growth. Government at a Glance 2017 provides the evidence for such public governance reforms.

  • In order to accurately interpret the data included in Government at a Glance 2017, readers need to be familiar with the following methodological considerations that cut across a number of indicators. The standard format for the presentation of indicators is on two pages. The first page contains text that explains the relevance of the topic and highlights some of the major differences observed across OECD countries. It is followed by a “Methodology and definitions” section, which describes the data sources and provides important information necessary to interpret the data. Closing the first page is the “Further reading” section, which lists useful background literature providing context to the data displayed. The second page showcases the data. These figures show current levels and, where possible, trends over time. A glossary of the main definitions of the publication can be found in the final chapter of the book.

  • The Government at a Glance series aims to provide reliable, internationally comparative data on government activities and their results in OECD countries and beyond. In turn, these data can be used by countries to benchmark their governments’ performance, to track domestic and international developments over time and to provide evidence to their public policy making. The indicators in Government at a Glance are becoming themselves a measuring standard in many fields of public governance. In addition to the core indicators that constitute the trademark of the publication, this fifth edition includes a selection of new indicators and additional data sources, allowing for a more complete picture the work and results of public administrations across OECD countries.

  • National governments in OECD countries face a political, economic and social environment that is increasingly unpredictable, complex, and that extends beyond national borders. Many are under pressure to address the impact of globalisation and to respond to a backlash among significant segments of the population. They are being called to lead national economies out of the current low-growth trap by increasing productivity, while ensuring that the fruits of growth – both in terms of jobs and income – are distributed more equally across society. And they are expected to respond to the disruptive effects of technological change. Coupled with an ageing population, high youth unemployment and persistently high levels of public debt, these policy challenges – and the lack of adequate responses – have led to the polarisation and fragmentation of public opinion on a number of societal issues such as economic integration and the control of migration flows.