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Greece The Civil Service
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
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    Government administration is entrusted to a network of public personnel within a vast civil service bureaucracy. Entry into the civil service is generally by competitive examination supervised by a board of civil servants, but government ministries sometimes avoid the regular recruitment channel and engage personnel by contract. In the latter case, recruitment depends on the discretion of each minister and hence is highly conducive to political favoritism. Specialists are hired through a noncompetitive procedure at higher salaries than otherwise would be possible. After several years of service, contract personnel often acquire civil service tenure.

    Civil service personnel are organized into three categories. Personnel in category A are university graduates who perform administrative and executive functions. Category B is for high school graduates who perform clerical duties. There are no educational requirements for personnel in category C, who are accepted without examination or other tests of skill. Promotion from a lower category to category A is automatic upon receipt of a university degree. In most cases, civil service tenure is lost only because of major political upheavals or dismissal for misconduct or incompetence. Mobility among ministries, or even among directorates and bureaus within a ministry, is minimal, and it is not unusual for a civil servant to spend an entire career working for the same office.

    Inefficiency and favoritism have caused the general public to criticize the civil service and to attach little prestige to it. Despite periodic attempts to rationalize the goals and the methods of the system, public administration is probably the single most visibly inefficient sector of the Greek governmental process. Although a School for Public Administration provides the prospect of more efficient top-level personnel, the staffing of bureaucratic jobs continues to rely on anachronistic practices.

    Since 1974 both ruling parties have offered programs to deal with the glaring inefficiencies of the civil service, especially in the area of personnel recruitment. In the 1980s, PASOK and ND administrations passed about a dozen laws altering the procedures of the state bureaucracy. However, the impact of this legislation seemed meager apart from broadening the immediate political influence of the governing party.

    Continued reliance on subjective criteria and personal connections in state agencies may be rooted in Greece's experience of administrative repression under right-wing governments during the early stages of the Cold War--a pattern that cultivated in Greek citizens a deep distrust for formal criteria such as exams, inspectors, and objective qualifications. Political parties are still able to sidestep rules in order to enhance their influence. Especially just before a national election, parties in power have routinely expanded their voter base by recklessly overstaffing the civil service ranks. This practice creates a short-term impression of social well-being by reducing unemployment. Such a policy reinforces negative effects of clientelism, upon which prewar parties relied in creating their constituencies (see The Interwar Struggles 1922-36 , ch. 1). Since 1974 government spending on such short-term boondoggles has also inflated Greece's spiraling public debt. In 1990, employment in the public sector was estimated at nearly 30 percent of the total in Greece, including all enterprises under state control.

    Data as of December 1994

    NOTE: The information regarding Greece on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Greece The Civil Service information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Greece The Civil Service should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.

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Revised 10-Nov-04
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