Public service sector

The State is the largest or the single most important employer in almost all countries. The public service personnel comprise persons employed by public authorities at central, regional and local levels and include both civil servants and public employees. The sector covers public administration and various services provided in the public or general interest, whether delivered publicly or privately. Increasing numbers of workers are employed in public services operated by the private sector.


Public authorities must provide high-quality services to their citizens and decent work for their workers. The optimal way to achieve sustainable national development and poverty alleviation is to promote good governance and transparency through effective social dialogue in the public service. The current economic crisis has affected governments and their workers in several ways, and the ILO has developed tools to assist governments in addressing these issues.

The Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention, 1948 (No. 87), the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98), and the Labour Relations (Public Service) Convention, 1978 (No. 151) guarantee government workers the rights to organize and bargain collectively. Convention No. 151 also establishes that disputes related to the determination of the terms and conditions of employment should be resolved through negotiations or through impartial and independent machinery.

National laws or regulations may determine how the guarantees provided for in Convention 98 apply to the armed forces and the police, and may also exclude high-level government employees whose functions are normally considered as policy-making or managerial, or employees whose duties are of a highly confidential nature, from the protection of Convention 151.