African Economic History Working Paper, African Economic History Network
Patronage or Meritocracy? Public Sector employment in postcolonial Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda
Abstract: In many African countries the efficiency of public
services deteriorated after independence as governments hired too many
employees, allowed earnings to erode and performance standards to decline.
Various explanations have been offered for this. Some have focused on the
stateís role as an employer of last resort of graduates from domestic
colleges and universities and its effects on the payroll. Others view
public employment as an instrument of patronage, arguing that it was used
to reward particular ethnic groups or regions for their political support.
Using a binary logistic model this paper analyses the effect of merit-based
criteria (education, age/experience) and ascriptive criteria (ethnicity or
region of origin) on the probability of holding a public sector job in
Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. It finds that educational level, age and the
developmental level of a respondentís place of birth have a large influence
on an individualís likelihood to hold public sector employment, while
ethnic identity has only a minor effect once other factors are controlled
for. The findings support the first proposition that the state was a
default employer of highly educated workers in the decades of independence
and politicians thus exercised relatively little discretion over the
allocation of skilled jobs. Moreover, graduates from peripheral and less
developed regions of their respective countries were more likely to enter
public employment than their counterparts from prosperous regions,
suggesting that graduates from ethnically Ďadvantagedí backgrounds may in
fact have a preference for private rather than public sector careers.
Keywords: Kenya; Tanzania; Uganda; employment; public sector; (follow links to similar papers)
JEL-Codes: J08; J24; N37; N47; (follow links to similar papers)
41 pages, June 8, 2016
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