Comparing Agencies across Countries

  • Sandra Van Thiel
Part of the Public Sector Organizations book series (PSO)


From the 1980s on, governments all over the world have created large numbers of semi-autonomous agencies. The chapters in this book are evidence of this trend, which has since then become known as agencification (cf. Pollitt et al. 2004). Semi-autonomous agencies operate at arm’s length of the government; they carry out public tasks such as regulation, service delivery, and policy implementation. Compared to government bureaucracy, agencies face less hierarchical and political influence on their daily operations, and they have more managerial freedom. There is much controversy over the definition of agencies but a consensus has grown that an agency in terms of agencification concerns an organization that (1) is structurally disaggregated from the government and (2) operates under more businesslike conditions than the government bureaucracy (Talbot 2004a). Agencies can, for example, have a different financial system and personnel policies, although the degrees of financial, personnel and management autonomy vary per (type of) organization (Verhoest et al. 2010b). It is exactly this degree of variation between (types of) organizations that make it impossible to develop a more precise definition.


Unemployment Benefit Federal Level Employment Office Transitional Country Government Bureaucracy 
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© Sandra Van Thiel 2012

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  • Sandra Van Thiel

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