Hidden costs of cuts: Austerity, civil service management and the motivation of public officials in Central and Eastern Europe after the crisis

Jan-Hinrik Meyer-Sahling, Barbara Janta, Iveta Reinholde, Christian van Stolk


The implementation of austerity measures presents a dilemma for governments. While austerity measures such as cutbacks aim to reduce costs and enhance public sector efficiency, the same measures might undermine the motivation of employees and, consequently, the prospects of effectively implementing austerity programmes. Based on a survey of ministerial officials in Poland and Latvia, this article finds that the scale of cutbacks explains a larger decline of staff motivation in Latvia than in Poland. The article further shows that motivation was more likely to decrease after the crisis if austerity measures involved cutbacks such as staff reductions, recruitment freezes, and a reduction of training opportunities.


Economic crisis; Austerity; Civil service reform; Motivation; Central and Eastern Europe

Full Text:



Armingeon, Klaus (2012) ‘The politics of fiscal responses to the crisis of 2008–2009’, Governance, 25(4): 543–565.

Bida, A, (2009) ‘Problemy motywacji zatrudnienia w służbie cywilnej (Problems with civil servants job motivation)’ in W Mikułowski and A Jezierska (eds) Wyzwania rozwoju zasobów ludzkich administracji publicznej w dobie kryzysu ekonomicznego (Challenges of public administration human resources development at the time of economic crisis, Conference proceedings, Warszawa (Warsaw), 10-11 December 2009, pp. 109 – 113.

Bideleux, Robert (2011) ‘Contrasting responses to the international economic crisis of 2008–10 in the 11 CIS countries and in the 10 post-communist EU member countries’, Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics 27(3-4): 338-363.

Boyne, George A. (2002) ‘Public and private management: what’s the difference?’, Journal of Management Studie, 39(1): 97–122.

Brans, Marleen and B. Guy Peters (eds) (2012) Rewards for High Public Office in Europe and North America. London: Routledge.

Brewer, Gene A. and Gene A. Jr Brewer (2011) ‘Parsing public/private differences in work motivation and performance: an experimental study’, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theor, 21(2): 347–362.

Buelens, Mark and Herman Van den Broeck (2007) ‘An analysis of differences in work motivation between public and private sector organizations’, Public Administration Review, 67(1): 65–74.

Chen, Chung-An and Chih-Wei Hsieh (2015) ‘Does pursuing external incentives compromise public service motivation? Comparing the effects of job security and high pay’, Public Management Review, 17(8):1190-1213.

Dahlström, Carl and Victor Lapuente (2010) ‘Explaining cross-country differences in performance-related pay in the public sector’, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 20, pp. 577- 600.

Darziņa, Lidija (2009) ‘Nosaka robežsummas atalgojuma samazināšanai valsts pārvaldē (Ceiling for salary cuts in public administration has been defined)’, Latvijas Vēstnesis, 01.07.2009. Available at http://www.lvportals.lv/print.php?id=194174.

Demmke, Christoph (2016) ‘Effects of budgetary constraints on HR reforms in central public administrations and the importance of institutional context’, International Journal of Public Administration, early online 7 Nov 2016.

Demmke, Christoph and Timo Moilanen (2010) Civil services in the EU of 27: Reform Outcomes and the Future of the Civil service, Frankfurt: Peter Lang.

Gazeta Prawna (2011) Służba cywilna: Niewielu kandydatów do awansu w urzędach (Civil service: not many candidates to be nominated), Gazeta Prawna online version. Available at http://praca.gazetaprawna.pl/artykuly/507642,sluzba_cywilna_niewielu_kandydatow_do_awansu_w_urzedach.html.

Gazeta Prawna (2013a) ‘Podwyżek dla urzędników nie ma. I nie będzie (No salary increases for public officials)’, Gazeta Prawna online version. Available at http://serwisy.gazetaprawna.pl/praca-i-kariera/artykuly/712547,podwyzek_dla_urzednikow_nie_ma_i_nie_bedzie.html.

Gazeta Prawna (2013b) ‘Rząd utrudnia awans urzędnikom. Kto może liczyć na wyższą pensję i stabilną pracę? (Government makes promotions of public officials more difficult. Who can expect higher salary and job stability?)’, Gazeta Prawna online version. Available at http://serwisy.gazetaprawna.pl/praca-i-kariera/artykuly/708324,rzad_utrudnia_awans_urzednikom_kto_moze_liczyc_na_wyzsza_pensje_i_stabilna_prace.html.

Government of Latvia (2008) Par Ministru kabineta 2008.gada 9.decembra sēdes protokollēmumu (prot. Nr.89 1.§) "Likumprojekts "Grozījumi likumā "Par valsts budžetu 2009.gadam"", un Latvijas ekonomiskās stabilizācijas un izaugsmes atjaunošanas programma" (On the decision of the Cabinet of Ministers made during the meeting on 9 December 2008 – “Amendment to the state budget law for 2009” and “Programme of Economic Stabilisation and Growth”). Available at http://www.mk.gov.lv/lv/mk/tap/?pid=40102497&mode=mk&date=2008-12-09.

Guest, David E. (1997) ‘Human resource management and performance: a review and research agenda’, International Journal of Human Resource Management 8(3): 263- 276.

Guthrie, James P (2008) ‘Remuneration: Pay effects at work, in Peter Boxall’, John Purcell and Patrick Wright (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Human Resource Management, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp.344-363 .

Hondeghem, Annie and James L. Perry (2009) ‘EGPA symposium on public service motivation and performance: introduction’, International Review of Administrative Sciences 75(1), pp. 5–9.

Huselid, Mark A. (1995) ‘The impact of human resource management practices on turnover, productivity, and corporate financial performance’, Academy of Management Journal 38(3): 635−672.

Kelly, Josie and Anneliese Dodds (2012) ‘Public administration in an age of austerity: the future of the discipline’, Public Policy and Administration 27(3):199-211.

Kickert, Walter, and Tiina Randma-Liiv (2016) ‘The politics of cutback management in thirteen European countries: Statistical evidence on causes and effects’, Public Management Review, 19(2):175-193.

Kickert, Walter, Tiina Randma-Liiv and Riin Savi (2015) ‘Politics of fiscal consolidation in Europe: A comparative analysis’, International Review of Administrative Sciences 81(3): 562–584.

Lepak, David P. Hui Liao, Yunhyun Chung and Erika E. Harden (2006) ‘A conceptual review of human resource management systems in strategic human resource management research’, Research in Personnel and Human Resources Management 25, 217–271.

Leslie, Keith and Adam Canwell (2010) ‘Leadership at all levels: leading public sector organisations in an age of austerity’, European Management Journal, 28(4): 297– 305.

Leta, (2009) ‘Valdība apņemas ierēdņu skaitu samazināt līdz 8% no iedzīvotāju skaita (The government decided to cut employees in public administration by 8% of total number)’, September 15, 2009. Available at http://www.tvnet.lv/zinas/latvija/195494-valdiba_apnemas_ierednu_skaitu_samazinat_lidz_8_no_iedzivotaju_skaita.

Lodge, David and Marta Rodríguez-Vives (2013) ‘How long can austerity persist? The factors that sustain fiscal consolidations’, European Journal of Government and Economics 2(1): 5-24.

Lodge, Martin and Christopher Hood (2012) ‘Into an age of multiple austerities? Public management and public service bargains across OECD countries’, Governance 25(1):79-101.

Lodge, Martin and Kai Wegrich (eds) (2012) Executive Politics in Times of Crisis, Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Marsden, David (2010) ‘The paradox of performance-related pay systems: why do we keep adopting them in the face of evidence that they fail to motivate?’, in Christopher Hood, Helen Margetts and Perri (eds) Paradoxes of Modernization: Unintended Consequences of Public Policy Reforms, Oxford: OUP, pp. 185-202.

Memorandum (2009) Memorandum of Understanding between the European community and the Republic of Latvia, 29.01.2009. Available at www.ec.europa.eu/latvija/documents/pievienotie_faili/29.01.09.mou.doc

Metsma, Merilin (2014) ‘The impact of cutback management on civil service training: The case of Estonia’, Administrative Culture 15(1):58-79.

Meyer-Sahling, Jan-Hinrik (2009) The Sustainability of Civil Service Reform in Central and Eastern Europe Five Years after Accession. SIGMA Paper Nr 44. Paris: OECD Publications.

Meyer-Sahling, Jan-Hinrik and Kim Sass Mikkelsen (2016) ‘Civil service laws, merit, politicization, and corruption: The perspective of public officials from five East European countries’, Public Administration, 94(4):1105-1123.

Ministry of Finance (2012) Finanšu ministrija. Dati par ekonomikas izaugsmi 2011.gadā turpina iepriecināt (The Ministry of Finance of The Republic of Latvia. Data on economic growth in 2011 continues to please). Available at 2012 http://www.fm.gov.lv/?lat/aktualitates/jaunumi/50908.

OECD (2012) Public sector compensation in times of austerity, Paris:OECD Publications.

Parrado, Salvador (2010) Sustainability of Human Resources in Central Public Administration in the EU Member States, Brussels: European Public Administration Network.

Perry, James L. and Lois R. Wise (1990) ‘The motivational bases of public service, Public Administration Review 50(3):367–373.

Perry, James L., Annie Hondeghem and Lois R. Wise (2010) ‘Revisiting the motivational basis of public service: twenty years of research and an agenda for the future’, Public Administration Review 70(5): 681-690.

Peters, B. Guy, Jon Pierre and Tiina Randma-Liiv (2011) Global financial crisis, public administration and governance: do new problems require new solutions?, Public Organization Review 11(1):13-27.

Potter, Michael (2012) ‘Still learning to speak and still not being heard: public administration and the latest financial crisis’, Administration & Society 44(3):367-373.

Rae, G, (2013) ‘Avoiding the economic crisis: pragmatic liberalism and divisions over economic policy in Poland’, Europe-Asia Studies 64(3):411-425.

Rainey, Hal G. (2001) ‘Work motivation’, in R.T. Golembiewski (Ed.) Handbook of Organisational Behaviour, 2nd Edition, , New York: Marcel Dekker, pp. 19 – 42.

Raudla, Ringa, Riin Savi and Tiina Randma-Liiv (2015) ‘Cutback management literature in the 1970s and 1980s: Taking stock, International Review of Administrative Sciences 81(3): 433 – 456.

Savi, Riin and Tiina Randma-Liiv (2015) ‘Decision-making in time of crisis: Cutback management in Estonia’ International Review of Administrative Sciences 81(3): 479-497.

UNDP (2010) Challenges for Public Sector Human Resources Management in the Recent Economic Downturn, Bratislava: Regional Centre for Public Administration Reform of UNDP.

Wright, Bradley E. (2001) ‘Public-sector work motivation: a review of the current literature and a revised conceptual model’, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 11(4):559-586.

Wright, Patrick M, and Wendy R. Boswell (2002) ‘Desegregating HRM: a review and synthesis of micro and macro human resource management research’, Journal of Management 28(3):247–276.

Zieliński, Wojciech (2009) ‘Modernizacja zarządzania zasobami ludzkimi w administracji publicznej (Modernisation of human resources management in public administration)’, in W. Mikułowski and A. Jezierska (eds) Wyzwania rozwoju zasobów ludzkich administracji publicznej w dobie kryzysu ekonomicznego (Challenges of public administration human resources development at the time of economic crisis), Conference proceedings, Warszawa (Warsaw), 10-11 December 2009, pp. 99-106.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

RepecSparc EuropeCOREEconBib