Attracting Young Talents In Civil Service : Kushal Pokharel

Civil service ordinarily encompasses those branches of public service pertaining to all governmental administrative functions excluding the armed services. A rigorous system of appointing employees on the basis of merit makes this service impartial and trustworthy.  Entering into the service, the employees are endowed with various benefits, including scholarship opportunities, paid leave and pension among others. With a defined career path providing ample exposure to professional development, there is plenty on offer for the deserving candidate. 

Having said that, a group of talented young people are still reluctant to join government service. Even though they are aware about the benefits of a government job, they don’t consider it  a career option. Despite the insistence by the parents to prepare for the Public Service Commission (PSC) exam, which is the only gateway to becoming a government employee, they  seek lucrative opportunities in the private sector.

While it’s crucial for a nation to attract creative young minds into this service, it’s equally important to create an environment of credibility and trust among the young people to motivate them to be an integral part of the public system. As a matter of fact, there are multitude of factors that discourage the talented youths  to join government service. While these people spend hours complaining about the inefficiency of the public system, they hardly dare to enter the system and induce change.

In this light, some of the pertinent questions that need to be addressed include: Why are highly talented and educated youths not interested in government jobs? What makes them think that a private job is better than a government one?

The General Perception

Particularly the educated urban youths perceive ‘sarkari kaam’ (goverment job) as a demeaning profession. When they hear of anything ‘sarkari’, what comes in their mind is corruption and malpractice. In fact, some of them often consider the working style of government officials as a major hindrance to the progress of the society and nation. The hatred towards anything related to government is so strong that they wish they never had to approach the goverment offices for getting things done. Whether it’s for obtaining the citizenship papers or a passport, they dislike standing in the long queue to obtain  documents.

Another dominant view in the young workforce about the skills and attitudes of the government people is precarious. In the eyes of majority of today’s youths, government officials are always looking for illegal earning and don’t perform their duties without accepting a bribe. Moreover, there is a very low appreciation of the professional skills that the bureaucrats possess.

‘Red tape’, a term used to describe excessive adherence to official rules and formalities, is a defining feature of government service, which the fast-paced generation of today can hardly bear. With more focus on the process and documentation than on the outcome or result, it is a dead-end job without any excitement in the view of those who are looking for a productive work environment.

On the other hand, they consider private jobs to be more dynamic and flexible allowing enough room for creativity and innovation. A de-bureaucratic system for them is convenient and comfortable to work in. 

Despite the fact that a government job provides an opportunity to directly contribute to nation building and socio-economic transformation, the charm is fading especially among the urban youths. While young people are looking for opportunities to contribute to national prosperity through volunteerism, they are unwilling to join hands with the public agencies for the purpose.

For instance, the recent relief, reconstruction activites in the aftermath of the earthquake in Nepal saw an unprecedented rise in community-based youth volunteersim. However, providing relief through the government channel was not preferred owing to the deep mistrust in the public system.

Of late, talented graduates from public colleges in Nepal have shown keen interest to join the civil service. Contrary to the older days when the PSC exam attendees used to be mainly under performing students, bright minds have also joined in the fray. But urban youths with stellar academic records continue to prefer private sector jobs.

The multi-stage  process of selecting the right candidate has been a matter of distaste for the urban youths. Although it’s important to ensure that the best minds enter the service, designing a scientific examination system can’t be underestimated. Under the current system, the course content seems overloaded with grand theories and devoid of practicality (though practical exams as a formality exist).

While the PSC officials make tall claims that the examination system is apt to ensure the best minds get into the sevice, it can’t be totally accepted.  The examinees are largely expected to write lengthy answers providing little room for critical analysis. For a dynamic young talent, the system is unfriendly as it requires plenty of time to  imbibe  abstract theories and philosophies before appearing for the exam.

Thinking Out of the Box

The negative attitude of youths towards the public system is detrimental for the socio-economic development of the nation. In a situation where a dynamic young workforce rarely thinks of being a part of the system and show commitment for systemic change in the country, the prosperity of the nation is at stake.

Realising the significance of getting bright young graduates into the public service system, some countries have introduced apprentice programmes to provide an opportunity to work closely with the government agencies, such as the British Civil Service. 

Thus, our state needs to mull over alternative strategies to integrate the talent, skill and innovation of our youths into the system.  The policy makers can create advisory roles for the youths in government offices without having the necessity to attend the cumbersome PSC exam. Opening policy fellowship positions is equally significant whereby senior government officials mentor youths in the public agencies. However, other standard criteria should be  established to put the meritorious candidate in the list.

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