The Economist publica artigo ressaltando correlação entre meritocracia e redução da corrupção

 Candidatos a cargo no serviço público chinês se aglomeram na entrada do local do exame. Foto: Getty Images

Candidatos a cargo no serviço público chinês se aglomeram na entrada do local do exame. Foto: Getty Images

A The Economist, no último dia 12 de março, publicou em seu site na internet o artigo “Mandarin lesson”, que trata do desafio de selecionar bons servidores para a carreira pública em diversos países, dentre eles o Brasil. A contratação baseada no mérito recebe destaques, sendo inclusive listada como diferencial no esforço contra a corrupção na burocracia.

Para sustentar essa avaliação, é apontada uma pesquisa realizada em 52 países. O estudo revela que a seleção meritocrática de servidores está firmemente ligada à diminuição da corrupção.

Selecionar bem os servidores públicos com base no mérito, no entanto, seria algo que vai além de testes de conhecimentos, de acordo com os especialistas ouvidos. Para eles, o desafio está em recrutar e manter nos quadros funcionais os candidatos que aliem conhecimento ao talento.

A busca pelo teste perfeito parece ser ainda mais necessária em países em desenvolvimento, onde estudos demonstram que o crescimento econômico está diretamente ligado à diminuição do nepotismo, do favoritismo e do clientelismo.

A reportagem conclui dizendo que embora os países já tenham se convencido de que preencher serviço público baseado na meritocracia seja a melhor solução, a atual fase é de contenção de despesas, prejudicando o recrutamento de servidores, ainda que grande parte da massa desses trabalhadores esteja se aposentando.

Confira abaixo, em inglês, o artigo na íntegra:

MANDARIN LESSONS
Countries are trying harder to recruit the best bureaucrats. Not hard enough

Mar 12th 2016  | From the print edition

“WANTED: people of promise”, proclaimed ads for America’s Federal Service Entrance Examination, introduced in 1955. Applicants faced posers on grammar and arithmetic—as well as the Battle of the Bulge and why presidential aides deserve anonymity (answer: “they relieve the president of many burdens and should not be subjected to a great deal of personal criticism”). But little more than two decades later, such exams had come under fire. Some said they tested knowledge rather than talent, thereby discriminating against black and Latino applicants. More broadly, their usefulness for picking tax-collectors and the like was questioned. In 1981 they were ditched.

They found that corruption across 52 countries was correlated with neither civil-service pay levels nor whether jobs were for life. Merit-based hiring was the only aspect of bureaucracies that consistently reduced graft. The connection held in countries at different stages of development, and with different political systems.

Last year the tests were resurrected, tweaked to be fairer and more useful. Growth in the number of university graduates, together with the popularity of a safe job in difficult economic times, had left many branches of government struggling to cope with a flood of applications. Federal agencies are now assessing candidates with USA Hire, an online quiz more relevant to the work to be done.

America is not the only country where more young people have been going to university in recent years. And as governments and aid donors seek to cut graft, the original, meritocratic aim of civil-service exams seems increasingly relevant. Sure enough, says Vivek Srivastava of the World Bank, during the past quarter-century more countries have started using assessments to dole out government jobs.

Of the 62 countries tracked in 2010-11 by Global Integrity, an NGO, 55 had rules against “nepotism, cronyism and patronage”. Last year Cyprus and Pakistan, among others, announced reforms intended to ensure that applicants are chosen on the basis of what they know, not whom. Countries such as Germany, Portugal and Spain pledge in their constitutions to recruit government staff based on skills. Prodded by aid donors, Afghanistan and Sudan recently promised to do likewise.

Applicants can face daunting odds. The Fast Stream programme, a graduate scheme for British officials, admits about one in 20 after a series of tests, role-play exercises and interviews. Of the roughly 500,000 applicants for elite civil-service jobs in India each year, only about 1,000 make the grade. Last year there were 27,817 roles for the 930,000 takers of the Chinese civil-service exam (the picture above shows candidates at a test centre).

Beancounters v boondoggles

Hiring civil servants according to calibre has been rare throughout history. Most jobs have been inherited, bought or bestowed as patronage. Although China tested for grasp of classical texts as long ago as 134BC, officials in the West only began to be properly vetted in the 19th century. In Britain, the Northcote-Trevelyan report of 1854 called for exams to weed out hereditary incompetence. In the years following, anger at America’s “spoils system”, which saw jobs given to party hacks, also led to reform: an 1868 report to Congress found a sculptor and a washerwoman among the political allies on the Treasury’s staff.

The best-known proponent of a new-model, meritocratic civil service was Max Weber, a German sociologist who died in 1920. He envisioned a closed, rigid hierarchy staffed by bureaucrats who entered by examination and enjoyed protected careers. This, he argued, would foster esprit de corps and curb cronyism.

There is a fair bit of evidence in favour of the meritocracy Weber championed. Research published in 2011 by Victor Lapuente and Carl Dahlstrom of the University of Gothenburg, and Jan Teorell, of Lund University, looked at which features of a civil service cut jobbery. They found that corruption across 52 countries was correlated with neither civil-service pay levels nor whether jobs were for life. Merit-based hiring was the only aspect of bureaucracies that consistently reduced graft. The connection held in countries at different stages of development, and with different political systems.

Meritocracy, more broadly conceived, also saves money and seems to promote economic growth. A forthcoming paper co-authored by Mr Lapuente analyses 1.4m procurement contracts in 212 regions of the European Union, and finds that the regions whose own public employees rate them as meritocratic pay less for roads, bridges and the like. The researchers estimate that if every region were as meritocratic as Baden-Württemberg, in Germany, EU governments could save €13 billion-20 billion ($14 billion-22 billion) a year. Separate work by Peter Evans and James Rauch, of the universities of California Berkeley and San Diego respectively, finds that in poorer countries meritocratic hiring and promotion are associated with faster growth.

But some countries make the elementary mistake of setting a silly test. It is not obvious why applicants in Spain, for example, have to memorise swathes of the legal code; nor why Indian candidates must know which ancient kingdom was associated with the life of the Buddha. Others fail to maintain meritocratic principles through civil servants’ entire careers. Some of the most closed administrations, including those of Greece, Italy and Spain, are in reality highly politicised, since promotion often depends on being in favour with the government of the day.

There are even worrying hints that independent hiring and promotion systems that should shield civil servants from shifts in political fortunes are somehow being subverted. A gap between law and practice is opening in eastern European countries such as Hungary, says Gyorgy Gajduschek of the Institute for Legal Studies, in Budapest. Across the OECD club of mostly rich countries, the number of bureaucrats replaced after elections seems to have risen since the 1980s, notes Mr Dahlstrom.

Global Integrity, an NGO, says that though 43 of 54 African countries it follows have rules against cronyism, only Botswana tends to appoint bureaucrats based on “professional criteria”. Some development wonks naively promoted the Weberian model, without building up capacity to implement it. “We went into countries and said you need to be more like Denmark,” says Mr Srivastava. “So countries changed their laws to look like Denmark’s—but then nothing would happen.”

Past papers

The century-old notion that a bureaucracy should be a cadre of lifers is now facing more fundamental criticisms. The first is of the idea that civil servants should be unsackable. The intention was to ensure their independence and protect them from being fired by meddling politicians; in some places, though, it means that once they have made it through the entrance exam they need never do a tap of work. Some of Brazil’s most coveted jobs, for example, are in well-paid corners of the public sector, often mocked as places where applicants who make it through a stiff exam can hang their jackets over their chairs—and never show up again.

The second problem is that the tasks civil servants must perform are becoming ever more complicated. Closed-shop bureaucracies can be short of essential skills, such as the ability to analyse data, manage big projects or write contracts for outsourced public services. In poorly governed, graft-prone countries, this may be a price worth paying for keeping politicians’ grubby hands off government jobs. But better-governed ones may be able to open up hiring without returning to nepotism.

According to the Quality of Government Survey Report, an international assessment of bureaucracies by independent experts, some countries that frequently bring outsiders into their civil services without examination, such as New Zealand, are highly meritocratic. In a recent paper looking only at rich countries, where graft is less common, Anders Sundell of the University of Gothenburg finds no connection between entrance exams and levels of corruption.

In much of the rich world, says Agnès Audier of BCG, a consultancy, a civil-service recruitment crisis looms. A third of government workers in the OECD are aged over 50; in America about 60% of senior federal employees are eligible to retire. In normal times, it would therefore be an excellent moment to tweak hiring rules, since a flood of new talent would quickly stir up stagnant bureaucracies. But many governments are squeezing staffing budgets or imposing hiring freezes to get their budgets back in balance after the financial crisis. The smart ones will be rethinking the way they recruit in preparation for the thaw.