Greater satisfaction in public services than in government

Trust in government fell 28 percentage points from 63 per cent to 35 per cent over a five-year period

OECD research found that the Irish public had a higher degree of satisfaction in public services than in government. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

OECD research found that the Irish public had a higher degree of satisfaction in public services than in government. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Fri, Nov 15, 2013, 16:55

Ireland suffered the greatest fall in confidence in government across the OECD between 2007 and 2012, according to a report on public governance published by the economic organisation.

Reflecting a decline in trust experienced in the countries hardest hit by the economic crisis the Government at a Glance 2013 report finds that trust in government in Ireland fell 28 percentage points from 63 per cent to 35 per cent over the five-year period.*

The fall in Ireland compares to a 25 percentage point fall in Greece, a 24 percentage point fall in Slovenia, a 14 point drop in Spain and a 22 percentage point drop in Portugal.

Confidence in government fell by an average of just 5 percentage points across all OECD members while Poland, France, the UK and Slovakia all saw positive increases.

Speaking at the launch of the report, OECD secretary-general Angel Gurría called for strong leadership and urgent action to address the deficit. “Without strong leadership, supported by effective policies, trust is easily eroded, he said.

Mr Gurria said good governance means “putting the needs of people at the centre of policy-making.”

“Building back trust is crucial to implement the necessary structural and fiscal reforms that are key to restoring growth and promoting well-being,” he said.

The OECD report measures the performance across the organisation’s 34 member countries through more than 50 indicators ranging from the provision of public services to open government.

It confirms a persistent gender gap in the public sector across the OECD where women still occupy only an average of 40 per cent of middle management and just 29 per cent of more senior posts.

While figures were not available on the numbers of women in the wider public service here, Ireland fell behind Italy, Portugal, Mexico and France at government level with only 14.3 per cent of ministers who are women. This figure compared with a much higher OECD average of 24.9 per cent.

The research found that the Irish public had a higher degree of satisfaction in public services than in government. Significantly ahead of the OECD average of 51 per cent, 62 per cent of respondents in Ireland expressed satisfaction and confidence in the judicial system and 74 per cent expressed confidence in the gardaí - ahead of the OECD average of 72 per cent.

Despite a fall of 7 percentage points since 2007, Ireland had the highest level of satisfaction in the education system and schools at 82 per cent. This compares with a 78 per cent satisfaction rating in the UK, 65 per cent satisfaction in Sweden and an OECD average of 66 per cent.

Ireland saw a drop of 4 percentage points in satisfaction with the availability of quality health care from 68 per cent in 2007 to 64 per cent in 2012. Switzerland recorded the highest satisfaction rating with 94 per cent in 2012, an increase from 92 per cent in 2007.

In summary, the report calls for an enhanced role for citizens and the notion of a social contract between citizens and the state where citizens contribute not only by paying taxes and obeying the law but by co-operating in the design and implementation of public policies.

At institutional level, it says governments need to be more inclusive, transparent, receptive and efficient. To do so, it says governments need to deliver high quality services to their citizens, provide open and transparent data and stabilise their respective economies.

* This article was amended on Saturday, November 16th, 2013, to change "fell 28 per cent" to "fell 28 percentage points"