Diversity and inclusion in the public service

Increased diversity and inclusion in the public service workforce has emerged as a priority for governments across the OECD in recent years. A more diverse workforce can enhance people’s trust, strengthen democracy and bring public sector innovation, as different perspectives and skill sets contribute to designing solutions to policy challenges (Nolan-Flecha, 2019). Effective diversity and inclusion strategies require a foundation of merit-based employment policies, open recruitment systems and robust legal protection from discrimination. Building on this, many countries go further by identifying gaps in workforce representation to develop policies to attract and recruit employees from under-represented groups.

The pilot composite index presented in Figure 6.5 captures three dimensions: the diversity of the workforce, the availability of data for measuring and tracking diversity in public sector workforces, and the use of tools to attract and recruit diverse employees at all levels. Canada, Israel, New Zealand and the United Kingdom are the top four countries when all three elements are combined, while France, Greece, Hungary and Ireland are among the higher-scoring countries in the diversity component. Collecting diversity data can be challenging given data protection limitations in many OECD countries but Australia, Austria and Colombia score highly for collecting and centralising standardised records of disaggregated workforce data by age, gender, disabilities or educational level. Korea, the Netherlands and Switzerland are among the countries making the most use of tools such as dedicated coaching or internship programmes, or recognising bias training for managers and panel members, to actively engage with under-represented groups, encourage them to apply to the civil service and address biases in recruitment processes.

Table 6.6 details the use of targets and policies for specific under-represented groups. Targets are the strongest mechanism as they set specific measurable objectives. They are used by 24 out of 33 OECD countries (73%) for people with disabilities in the whole public service, while 14 (42%) have targets for gender balance in their whole public service, and an additional 7 OECD countries (21%) only target gender balance at the senior levels of the public administration. These targets are gaining momentum: only 37% of OECD countries had hiring targets for people with disabilities in 2016, and 29% for women (OECD, 2017). When it comes to other under-represented groups, such as people from disadvantaged or migrant backgrounds and ethnic minorities, countries tend to prefer policies over targets. France, Hungary, Korea and New Zealand are the countries making the most use of targets to address diversity in their public workforce.

Further reading

Nolan-Flecha, N. (2019), “Next generation diversity and inclusion policies in the public service: Ensuring public services reflect the societies they serve”, OECD Working Papers on Public Governance, No. 34, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/51691451-en.

OECD (2019), Recommendation of the Council on Public Service Leadership and Capability, OECD, https://legalinstruments.oecd.org/%20en/instruments/OECD-LEGAL-0445.

OECD (2017), Government at a Glance 2017, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/gov_glance-2017-en.

Figure notes

Data for Chile and Iceland are not available. Gender data for senior level public servants used in the indicator only refer to D1 for Austria, and D2 for Australia (see Annex D for more details on this classification).

6.6: Denmark and Sweden are not included because of the lack of common processes in the central administration.

Metadata, Legal and Rights

This document, as well as any data and map included herein, are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area. Extracts from publications may be subject to additional disclaimers, which are set out in the complete version of the publication, available at the link provided.

© OECD 2021

The use of this work, whether digital or print, is governed by the Terms and Conditions to be found at http://www.oecd.org/termsandconditions.