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The Size and Performance of Public Sector Activities in Europe

  • Heinz Handler

    (WIFO)

  • Bertrand Koebel
  • Philipp Reiss
  • Margit Schratzenstaller

    (WIFO)

The obvious difference in the economic performance of countries has led to the question why some countries are so much wealthier than others, and whether the size, the structure, and the organisation of the public sector contribute to cross-country income and growth gaps. Public sector activities may have an effect on overall productivity and growth either directly by the level and changes of productivity within the public sector, or indirectly by triggering off productivity changes in private production. This paper is concerned with the former aspect. It provides an overview of the size and the structure of the public sector in Europe and compares it with the US and Japan. This is related to the more recent empirical literature on public sector performance. After reviewing some of the measurement issues related to public services, the evidence on the size of government and its performance is analysed. The results on industrial countries are not fully conclusive, but seem to attribute more efficiency to smaller rather than to larger governments. Public sector reforms to consolidate the size of government are therefore likely to enhance the sector's own productivity and thereby positively contribute to overall economic performance.

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Paper provided by WIFO in its series WIFO Working Papers with number 246.

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Length: 31 pages
Date of creation: 23 Feb 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wfo:wpaper:y:2005:i:246
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  1. Barro, R.J., 1989. "Economic Growth In A Cross Section Of Countries," RCER Working Papers 201, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  2. Tito Boeri & Axel Börsch-Supan & Guido Tabellini, 2001. "Would you like to shrink the welfare state? A survey of European citizens," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 16(32), pages 7-50, 04.
  3. António Afonso & Ludger Schuknecht & Vito Tanzi, 2005. "Public sector efficiency: An international comparison," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 123(3), pages 321-347, June.
  4. Robert E. Hall & Charles I. Jones, 1999. "Why Do Some Countries Produce So Much More Output per Worker than Others?," NBER Working Papers 6564, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Olivier Blanchard, 2004. "The Economic Future of Europe," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(4), pages 3-26, Fall.
  6. Oates, Wallace E., 1993. "Fiscal Decentralization and Economic Development," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 46(2), pages 237-43, June.
  7. António Afonso & Miguel St. Aubyn, 2004. "Non-parametric Approaches to Education and Health Expenditure Efficiency in OECD Countries," Working Papers Department of Economics 2004/01, ISEG - School of Economics and Management, Department of Economics, University of Lisbon.
  8. Heinz Handler & Andreas Knabe & Bertrand Koebel & Margit Schratzenstaller & Sven Wehke, 2005. "The Impact of Public Budgets on Overall Productivity Growth," WIFO Working Papers 255, WIFO.
  9. Isabelle Joumard & Per Mathis Kongsrud & Young-Sook Nam & Robert W.R. Price, 2004. "Enhancing the Effectiveness of Public Spending: Experience in OECD Countries," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 380, OECD Publishing.
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