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The Role of Incentives in the Public Sector: Issues and Evidence


  • Simon Burgess
  • Marisa Ratto


Using incentive pay to improve public-sector efficiency is an important component of the UK government's public-service modernization agenda. In this paper, we review the important issues in performance pay in the public sector, and summarize the evidence on its effects. We consider how optimal incentives for public-sector workers may differ from those in the private sector and, if they do, what types of incentives are more appropriate for the public sector. We investigate the reasons for the infrequent use of explicit incentives in the public sector. We summarize evidence of particular relevance to the public sector, on issues such as the impact on output of incentive pay schemes, gaming and dysfunctional behaviour, multiple principals, intrinsic motivation, and teamwork. Finally, we comment on the design of new policies being introduced in the UK public sector in the light of the theoretical arguments and the evidence. Copyright 2003, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Simon Burgess & Marisa Ratto, 2003. "The Role of Incentives in the Public Sector: Issues and Evidence," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 19(2), pages 285-300, Summer.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:oxford:v:19:y:2003:i:2:p:285-300

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    References listed on IDEAS

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