Public Sector

Industry Profile

Overview of the Public Sector Industry

Public services are provided by a government to those living under its jurisdiction, either directly through public sector agencies or by funding private firms or voluntary organisations to deliver those services. Other public services are provided on behalf of a government’s citizens or in the public interest. In addition, the term is associated with a social consensus that certain services should be available to all, regardless of income, physical and mental ability. Examples of such services include security, primary healthcare, public transport, justice and protection of its people at home and abroad.

Public services operate in many forms, such as government ministries, departments, and agencies. Some work independently as state-funded institutions, armed forces, and offices. Where the government does not provide services directly, it operates as a regulator to ensure there are practices for a free market in the best interest of its citizens. While the public sector is one of the largest spenders in the procurement of goods and services in most economies, most public services are service-oriented. It is because public sector organisations serve as instruments for government at all levels to implement policies, programs, and projects. 

Civil society organisations such as community groups, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), labour unions, indigenous groups, charitable organisations, faith-based organisations, etc., also work to hold accountable and support governments and the public sector in delivering their responsibilities to their people.

Global View
The contributions of public sector employment to total employment, and consequently the degrees of participation of government entities in producing goods and services, range significantly. The share of public jobs in the nations for which data is available ranges from 5% (Philippines) to 8% (South Africa and Japan) to over 55% (Azerbaijan and Belarus). The size of public employment in total employment in OECD countries is close to 21%, while it is above 40% in countries in transition to a market economy. (Bureau of Statistics)

According to a 2018 Africa Public Service Report by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, public employees in Africa consist less than 12% of total employment. They represent less than half the average level in Europe & Central Asia. In 2016, general government expenditure in sub-Saharan Africa amounted to 16.1% of the region’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is slightly less than the global average of 17.1% and only above North America and South Asia. Sub-Saharan Africa’s public expenditure annual growth rate, at +2.7%, is still far below East Asia. The cost of public employees as a % of government expenditure varies widely on the continent from 7.4% to 56.2%. The average for the 26 African countries for which there is data in the period 2009-2015 (using the latest data year available) on the size of the public sector as a percentage of their paid employment reaches 31.9%.

Ghana boasts highly skilled and trainable labour. The World Atlas Map lists Ghana as the country with the highest literacy rate in West Africa in 2018. According to the World Development Indicators, for 2018, Ghana’s employment to population ratio for persons aged 15 and above per modelled International Labour Organisation estimate (total %) was 62.95%. For persons between the ages of 15 and 24, it was 36.14%.

The Public sector of Ghana, through the National Employment Report of 2015, shows that six out of every ten (60.3%) persons engaged are males while females constitute the rest (39.7%). The Agricultural sector had the largest share of males (74.4%), followed by the industry sector (64.3%). On the other hand, the services accounted for the lowest share of males (59.0%), suggesting that the most significant shares of employed women are found in the services sector (41.0%). However, employment in Ghana is driven by the service sector, which occupied over 49% of the country’s total employment in 2019. On the other hand, the agricultural and industry sectors covered around 30% and 21% of the total employment, respectively.

According to Statista, the estimated number of employees in public administration in Ghana amounts to 309,000 in 2020. The total Labour force in Ghana was reported at 1,370,1717 million in 2021, according to the World Bank collection of development indicators, compiled from officially recognised sources. 

The private sector is split into two parts: a formal, large business sector that is relatively healthy and productive and a massive, informal small business sector that is poorly understood and supported yet employs almost nine out of ten workers. The link between the formal and informal sectors is fragile, and initiatives that bridge the gap should be a priority. According to Statista, Kenya’s estimated number of employees in public administration amounts to 546K in 2020. Healthcare spending per capita in Kenya is forecast to amount to $120.40 in 2025. In 2018, Kenya’s Logistics Performance Index score had a value of 2.8. The central government debt in Kenya is estimated to amount to 78.6% of the country’s domestic product in 2025.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the public sector (the Federal Government, thirty-six states and seven hundred and seventy-four local governments and their agencies) contributed N1.46 trillion to the Gross Domestic Product, GDP, in 2021. This is a marginal decline of 0.3 per cent from the N1.47 trillion contributed in 2020. However, the public sector’s contribution is 80.4 per cent lower than the total allocation (N7.46 trillion) to the three tiers of government from the Federation Account in 2021. 

The estimated number of employees in public administration in Nigeria is estimated to be more than 2 million in 2020. The incidence of over 6.5 million youths applying for just 4000 vacant positions in the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) reflects the high demand for jobs in Nigeria’s public sector, despite the limited opportunities available.

South Africa
The South African government employs roughly 1.3 million people in various industries, including teachers, nurses, doctors, municipal workers, police officers, and armed forces members.

The average government wage in South Africa is R1,440,000 per year. Most experienced professionals earn up to R4,576,772 per year, while entry-level roles wages start at R565,500 per year.

The National Treasury of South Africa reports that the wage bill for public employees is one of the greatest parts of public spending, making up 35.4% of all expenditures made nationally in 2018–19. This equates to R3.54 for every R10 that the government spends.

According to Persal data, the public salary bill increased more than threefold between 2006–07 and 2018–19, from R154 billion to R518 billion.

  • Public-Private Partnerships:
    Government agencies and private-sector enterprises collaborate to finance, create, and operate projects such as public transit networks, parks, and convention centres. Tax or other operating revenue concessions, liability protection, or partial ownership rights over nominally public services and property are common elements of public-private partnerships.

    Financing a project through a public-private partnership can speed up its completion or perhaps make it possible in the first place. Examples include road construction projects, port management, power grid projects, etc.

  • Rigorous Promotion Exercises:
    Getting promotions in this sector involves going through tests/examinations, screening, interviews, writing projects, etc. The process is quite rigorous and stressful as there are many stages that workers need to pass through before they can get promoted. Successful workers get promoted after passing all the required benchmarks. However, if, for whatever reason, a worker does not pass all the stages, such worker may not be promoted.

  • Internal Capacity Building
    To enhance workers’ efficiency and productivity, some agencies empower their workers to perform tasks that used to be outsourced to contractors. This has helped the sector in maximising their staff potential while saving costs.

  • Digital Transformation
    The digital revolution will transform how organisations work and the public interaction with government, business, and vice versa. Slow, distant and paper-based communications within government departments will increasingly be replaced with fast, personalised digital interactions. Citizens will have access to and share data as never before—availability of government services online. An example of digitisation in this sector is the digitisation of the INEC registration procedure. It allows people to register, change polling centres, and even track the progress of their registration.

  • Changing Organisational Structure
    Government departments’ traditional organisational structure, characterised by large, dirty state bureaucracies, is becoming disconnected from best practices in the private sector. This has affected the public sector as private firms are taking over due to their innovation, technology integration, etc.

  • Operational Inefficiencies
    Government agencies, as non-profits, in many countries, are reputable for working with less efficiency than the private sectors. Governments can develop specific programmes working with private sector organisations or independently upskill government workers and implement performance frameworks with rewards for meeting targets. Digitisation of processes also helps to improve efficiency and provide training opportunities for government workers.

  • Skill Gaps
    While employment security in the public sector allows individuals to gain experience, training opportunities are frequently limited. Workers may not be sufficiently motivated to take advantage of existing chances. Participation in training and proof of newly acquired abilities, not just years of experience, should be mandatory as a promoting criterion for government employees. The industry should also recognise great employees who have shown consistency and increased their skill sets.

  • Compensation
    The private sector is the destination of choice for most graduates in developing countries. It is not because they are unwilling to contribute to the public sector. On the contrary, public sector salaries are incomparable to what is obtainable in the private sector or some areas within the public sector, such as finance and Oil and Gas. Public workers tend to make less in wages when adjusting for education. However, that difference is reduced when including benefits and hours. This has made the public sector attractive to the best of talents and has made them part-time workers in the public sector. They have to supplement their jobs with other sources of income or benefit from loopholes in the public sector for personal enrichment

  • Poor Working Environment and Archaic Systems
    Government buildings where public sector workers work are most of the time aged and are poorly maintained. A poor working environment can reduce morale and is attractive to a younger generation of workers. File cabinets are usually worn out, and legacy systems are in use. Governments need to approach the modernisation of the infrastructure and systems used in the public sector as an investment in improving productivity.
    • Corruption

      In many developing countries, the public sector is a hotbed of corruption. Nothing appears to be attainable without the exchange of cash or favour; in certain countries, this has been the norm. Reforms in the public sector are now focusing on process automation to make services more openly accessible online and with less human involvement. This method will reduce the corruption rate in this sector.

    • Citizen Disengagement
      A challenge in the public sector, especially with public office holders, is the disengagement of citizens in their administration. Several officeholders hold little or no regard for what their people need, their opinions or their plight. The citizens need to be engaged to have a complete public sector administration. Governments should develop avenues of communication to get feedback between public office holders and the people. There should also be transparency on activities in the sector. In addition, a channel to share the report with citizens should be encouraged in this sector.

    • Overstaffing and underutilisation of capacity
      The public sector is the most staffed in the country. The number of workers employed in the sector is quite a lot compared to the number needed. There have been cases of ghost workers employed on paper who don’t report to work but get paid by the government. Also, staff in this industry often have more skills than what is required on the job; some staff in this sector are only there to stamp a document they will do throughout their career. The work structure in this sector does not allow the staff to work to their full potential.

    • Political Interference
      In many public offices, the agenda and plans pursued are dictated by the political office holder in power. Whether in a local/state/federal government office, what they do is often a result of the agenda of the political office holder. When there’s a change in power, the focus of such a department changes. It has caused many problems in this sector and projects, campaign changes with several government officeholder changes, even if the programs or project benefits the citizen.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) all, directly or indirectly, involve an effective public service. This is because all of the Goals (17 SDGs, 169 targets, and 231 indicators) require public goods or the implementation of a public sector policy. Therefore, they depend on public service to coordinate, mediate or directly provide. 

Governments worldwide cannot meet sustainable development goals without efforts from public institutions and public servants. However, the public sector in any country cannot by itself deliver SDG strategies and plans. 

In the Sustainable Development Agenda, inclusive development means “all stakeholders, acting in collaborative partnership, will implement this plan”. It requires collaborative leadership skills to effectively engage with external partners, including civil society representatives, businesses, academia, and science, for collective problem-solving. 

Use of social media
Government agencies now operate social media accounts as a medium to interact with citizens. Social m platforms like Instagram and Twitter are prominent platforms used by government agencies. The platforms are used for information dissemination and to engage citizens. Citizens get to lodge complaints and interact with government agencies through these mediums.  

Online recruitment
In the bid to ease access to recruitment opportunities and processes in the public sector, an online recruitment system has been adopted. As a result, several government agencies in the country have automated their recruitment process. Applicants can now submit their applications and certificates and every other necessary document making job applications easier and faster.

The public sector agencies have seen digital improvement in digitising some activities that have aided better service delivery to citizens. Take, for example, INEC; registrations and other procedures that may involve visiting and queuing at their office have been digitalised, which has eased the stress on citizens.

Data Analytics
As things evolve and trends change, the sector uses data analysis to inform and plan government policies and projects. The use of data analysis will help the sector get access to accurate data that governments can use to decide what the citizens want and what they don’t want.

Open Data
Public bodies generate, commission, and make large amounts of data and information, which has increased openness and accountability to citizens. Governments also support business creation (startups), development, and citizen-centric services by encouraging the usage, reuse, and free sharing of datasets.

For transparency and innovators and startups to have access to government data.

Digital Transformation
Digital technologies are being utilised to develop new—or modify current—business processes, culture, and consumer experiences to meet changing business and market requirements. As a result, the sector is undergoing a digital transformation. There have also been collaborations among MDAs to impact the sector’s digital transformation.


According to the National Research Fund, these include:

  • Values and institutional performance in the public sector
  • Performance and other gaps between private and public institutions
  • Low Productivity and its Effects on the Nigeria Public Sector
  • Impact of Motivation on Employee’s Performance in a Public Sector
  • The Role of Information Communication Technology in the Public Sector Administration
  • The Effect of Leadership on Public Sector Performance
  • Improving Public Sector Efficiency: challenges and the way forward
  • Strategies for Promoting Productivity in Civil Service
  • The Effect of Training on the Performance of Employees in the Public Sector
  • Shortage of Human Resources in Government Establishments; Problems and Solutions
  • Intergovernmental and intra-governmental relations
  • Governmentality, bureaucratic effectiveness, and service delivery
  • Corruption; horizontal and vertical accountability and transparency

The public service industry has opportunities for different professionals from different fields. Here are some of the career paths in the Public Service Industry:

Law Enforcement, Security and Defense Services
If you are rule-oriented and safety conscious, a career that enforces laws and policies may suit you. Many military veterans work in the public sector after they have served their country. Law enforcement jobs maintain the social order and reduce potential threats to individual or public safety. In addition, they protect property and preserve the quality of life in local communities.

Examples include Law enforcement officers, firefighters, animal control officers, correctional officers, bailiffs, Transit authorities, Crossing guards, Coast guards, Military, Immigration and customs inspectors.

Government Servants
Human Services jobs involve helping people meet basic life needs, psychological services, and healthcare with assistance from the government.

Examples include Social workers, Mental health therapists, Substance abuse counsellors, Financial caseworkers, Developmental disabilities specialists, Public health nurses, Tribal affairs program managers, City planners, City managers, City attorneys, etc.

Public School Educators
Working in public schools and educational institutions encompasses any type of position working with individuals in various capacities. Excellent communication, patience, and commitment to learning are essential qualities for these jobs. Teaching or administrative positions are options to consider.

Head Start teacher, Classroom aid, Special education teacher, Preschool teacher, Middle school teacher, High school teacher, Guidance counsellor, Principal, Superintendent, Community education director, etc.

Many diverse non-profit and not-for-profit organisations provide human and social services. Working with like-minded individuals dedicated to helping others can be inspiring and fulfilling. Funding typically comes from government sources, fundraisers, and donations. Job seekers can find many jobs in these organisations to serve the public good.

Homeless shelter manager, Domestic violence shelter advocate, line counsellor, Food pantry/food bank/soup kitchen coordinator, Civil rights worker, Youth leader, Immigrant support specialist, Disability services worker, Free healthcare clinics, Hospice care workers

Other career paths include (Not limited to this list):

Arts administrator, Chartered public finance accountant, Civil Service administrator, Civil Service, Fast Streamer, Company secretary, Corporate treasurer, Diplomatic service officer, Education administrator, Environmental health practitioner, Equality, diversity, and inclusion officer, Facilities manager, Government social research officer, Health service manager, Intelligence analyst, Local government officer, Office Manager, Personal assistant, Policy officer, Political risk analyst, Politician’s assistant, Secretary/administrator, Senior tax professional/tax inspector, Statistician, Theatre manager.

This sector is not degree-specific, as all degrees can do government work. Although you can work in this sector with a different kind of degree, some of the sector’s segments require some specialised degree holders for the job.

Here are a few examples of specialised degrees:

BSc in: Public Administration, International Relations, Economics, Political science, International Social and Public Policy, Public Health, Accounting, Journalism, Communications, 

MSc in: Master of Public Administration, Business Administration, Public Policy, Social Work, etc.

Workers in this sector can also take professional courses offered in the industry they operate as public servants.

  • Communication & Persuasion
    To interact with the public, work with your colleagues and communicate with your superiors in clear terms. You must communicate effectively with your colleagues and superiors. Your thought must be expressed clearly to avoid misunderstandings or misinterpretation of your intention. 

  • Networking & Teamwork
    The public service industry consists of professionals from different fields/backgrounds coming together to achieve a common objective. One crucial public service skill is working across boundaries with other public agencies or external partners. This involves learning the other party’s language, understanding how they see the world, being cooperative and being clear about what outcomes you need from cooperation

  • Self-Awareness and Management
    Understanding your skillset, what you’re good at, the areas you work best, and understanding areas you need to improve on will help you. Also, motivating yourself to work irrespective of your environment is essential and demonstrating emotional intelligence under pressure.

  • Planning & Organisation
    Work in this sector might be cumbersome, hence your need to be able to plan things ahead of time. Having planning and organisation skills will help you in this industry. Things are done orderly, so having insight into what your office needs and planning will help you.

  • Continual Learning & Adaptation
    You may be transferred to another department, unit, location or an entirely different government agency. Being open to continuous learning is vital in this sector. You might be transferred to a new department that requires a different set of knowledge and skills. Your ability to learn and adapt will keep you long in this sector.

    Digital Skills
    While this sector might not need expert knowledge of technological tools for basic workers, you should be able to use the computer and basic office tools like the Microsoft office. In addition, having basic computer skills will aid your work in this sector as it undergoes digitisation. 

You can start by looking out for internship opportunities in this sector: networking and building relationships with staff in the industry to get recruitment updates. Most times, such opportunities are not announced. Even when they eventually get announced, some people have been selected already, and the announcement is just a formality.

It is good to also look out for quota-based, such as state, region of origin, or group. Doing this will be advantageous, especially if it’s a job based on allocation. Such positions are hardly given to other states or regions except for the region it’s meant for.

Getting your documentation ready as early as possible to apply when jobs are announced is essential to compete against several people applying.

A post-graduate degree such as a master’s or experience coming from the private sector can also be an advantage when applying for jobs in this sector.

You can also work as a consultant to the government or work with an organisation that works closely with the government under a PPP (Public-Private Partnership) arrangement. You can also work as a political appointee as Special advisers, commissioners or ministers to political officeholders in this sector base on your experience and speciality. 

Understanding hierarchy is essential for workers in this industry. You’re required to follow orders; you do as your superiors say. Working in the sector comes with a lot of peeks like job security, benefits, access to several loans, opportunities to do other things, training, a 13th-month salary in some state/country, accessible transportation for workers, sponsored travels for workers by the government for summit/seminar, etc. 

Once you get into the industry, you can almost be able to predict when you’ll be getting promoted and sometimes know how the screening process will go. Promotion criteria vary in this sector depending on the segment you’re working within the sector.


To get things done in their sector requires budgeting and getting approval before certain things can be done. So you don’t wake up and decide to do something at will. There is a procedure to follow to get things done.

Public sector workers are members of unions which serve as interest groups to protect them and advocate for their demands with the government as an employer. The largest of these unions are typically in the education and teaching services, healthcare and line workers in government-owned enterprises. 

They also belong to professional and industry bodies to enhance their career development and interact with other professionals from the private sector. Many of these professional bodies also operate as unions. One of such is medical associations.

Ghana Employers Association, Association of Ghana Industries

Kenya Private Sector Alliance, Association of Public Sector General Suppliers, Federation of Kenyan Employers

Public sector workers are members of unions which serve as interest groups to protect them and advocate for their demands with the government as an employer. The largest of these unions are typically in the education and teaching services, healthcare and line workers in government-owned enterprises. 

They also belong to professional and industry bodies to enhance their career development and interact with other professionals from the private sector. Many of these professional bodies also operate as unions. One of such is medical associations.

South Africa
Public Servants Association of South Africa, South African Local Government Association


Emmanuel Antwi-Darkwa, Stella Agyenim-Boateng, Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur, Akwassi Osei 

Christine Kandie, Njeri Migwi, Elijah Mwega, Tom Ozere, Dianah Kamande

Zinab Ahmed, Charles Soludo, Dora Akinyuli, Nasir El-Rufai, Ahmad Salihijo Ahmad

South Africa
Lindiwe Daphne Zulu, Patricia De Lille, Samson Gwede Mantashe, Pakishe Aaron Motsoaledi.

International Labour Organization

Ghana Statistical Service, Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations, Ministry of Interior

National Cohesion and Integration Commission, National Hospital Insurance Fund, National Intelligence Service (Kenya), National Land Commission

Federation Civil Service Commission

The Public Service Institute of Nigeria (PSIN)

South Africa
Government Employees Medical Scheme (GEMS), National Arts Council of South Africa (NAC), Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC), Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA), South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA).

The public sector usually ranks as the largest or one of the largest employers in most countries. The public sector areas that offer the most employment opportunities are the following:

  • Education and teaching services
  • Civil service to provide administrative support
  • Public Health and Medical services
  • Law Enforcement, Security and Defense
  • Works and social services
  • Agricultural support service
  • Inland revenue

Ministry of Aviation, Ministry of Culture and Chieftaincy, Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare, Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of The Interior, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Office of Attorney General and Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resource, Ministry of Railway Development, Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations, Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology, Ministry of Youths and Sports, Ministry of Works and Housing, Ministry of Communication, Ministry of Information, Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection

Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government, Ministry of Defence, The National Treasury and Planning, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Industry, Trade & Co-operatives, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation, Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing, Urban Development and Public Works, Ministry of Devolution and the ASALS, Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT), Ministry of Sports, Culture and Heritage, Ministry of Education, Ministry of East African Community (EAC) and Regional Development, Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Ministry of Water and Sanitation, Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning, Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Petroleum and Mining, Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender, Kenya Copyright Board, Kenya Law Reform Commission, Public Service Commission of Kenya, National Crime Research Centre, National Police Service Commission, Witness Protection Agency, NCIA.

The public sector usually ranks as the largest or one of the largest employers in most countries. The public sector areas that offer the most employment opportunities are the following:

  • Education and teaching services
  • Civil service to provide administrative support
  • Public Health and Medical services
  • Law Enforcement, Security and Defense
  • Works and social services
  • Agricultural support service
  • Inland revenue

South Africa
Ministry of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Ministry of Basic Education, Ministry of Communications and Digital Technologies, Ministry of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Employment, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Higher Education, Science, and Technology, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Human Settlements, Ministry of Public Works and Infrastructure, Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Sport, Arts and Culture, Ministry of Trade, Industry and Competition, Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Water and Sanitation, Ministry of Small Business Development, Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment, Armscor, Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa, Land and Agricultural Development Bank of South Africa, South African Broadcasting Corporation, South African Airways.

General Media

  • Newspapers
  • State radio and television
  • Social media channels of MDAs


  • Reforming the Unreformable; Lessons from Nigeria by Nkonjo Iweala 
  • The Accidental Civil Servant by Nasir El-Rufai
  • The Arc of the Possible: A Memoir: Adio, Waziri
  • System Thinking in the Public Sector by John Seddon (2008)
  • Public Management and Administrative Reforms in Western Europe by Walter J.M. Kickert (1997)
  • Public Sector Management by Norman Flynn (1990)
  • All the President’s Men by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward


  • State radios in developing countries
  • Public Sector Future
  • Public Sector Voices
  • Public Sector Perspectives
  • Talking Public Sector
  • CarahCast: Podcasts on Technology in the Public Sector
  • The Public Sector Pod



Events are organised by or with the participation of Government Ministries, Departments, Agencies and organisations. 


  • House of Cards
  • Madam Secretary
  • The Meeting (2012)
  • All the President’s Men (1976)
  • Don’t Look Up (2021){adid}&utm_content=&gclid=CjwKCAjw7IeUBhBbEiwADhiEMVkAvhWNT2Eo-X7EqJQRL2Fxm8JMA4yQXB4ttYHdeKcWqhhiKUs0cRoCgxkQAvD_BwE,officers%20and%20defence%20force%20members,4%20576%20772%20per%20year.