Trust in OECD governments back at pre-crisis levels as governments seek to be more open and engaged

crisis 2019_

(Robert Metz, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you in association with OECD.


Trust in governments has recovered to pre-crisis levels and satisfaction with public services has improved, as public sector reforms aimed at making governments more open, accountable and engaged start to bear fruit, according to a new OECD report.

Government at a Glance 2019, the sixth edition of the OECD’s two-yearly overview of public governance, compares OECD and partner countries in areas such as public spending, investment, public procurement, public sector employment and government openness using around 60 indicators. The report contains scorecards and results of citizen surveys on health, education and justice services, and is accompanied by 38 individual country factsheets.

Key findings include:

  • Overall government spending in the OECD area rose slightly to 40% of GDP in 2017 from 39% in 2007. Government spending on social protection and health accounted for 21.1% of GDP across OECD countries in 2017, up from 18.6% in 2007, due in part to ageing populations.
  • Public investment averaged 3.1% of GDP in 2017, down from 3.6% in 2007. Estonia and Norway invested the largest share of GDP (both at 5.3%) and Israel the smallest (1.4%).
  • Average gross government debt in 2017 was 110% of GDP, limiting governments’ ability to react to economic shocks. The average fiscal deficit has steadily improved since 2009 to reach 2.2% of GDP in 2017, though this is still below the 2007 level of 1.7%.
  • Across OECD countries, employment in general government is unchanged from 2007 at about 18% of total employment. There are persistent gender gaps, with men making up more than two-thirds of higher-level court judges, seats in lower/single houses of parliaments, and ministerial positions in 2019.
  • People’s trust in government, as measured by the Gallup World Poll, rose to 45% across OECD countries in 2018, from a low of 37% in 2013. This is now in line with pre-crisis levels of 2007. Trust levels varied from above 70% in Switzerland and Luxembourg to 20% or less in Greece and Latvia.
  • Satisfaction with health and education, and confidence in the judicial system, have risen slightly on average across OECD countries over the past decade, also according to the Gallup Poll. In 2018, 70% of OECD citizens were satisfied with healthcare availability (the same as 2007), 66% were satisfied with education and schools (up 2 percentage points from 2007), and 56% had confidence in the judicial system (up 4 ppts from 2007).
  • OECD countries are increasingly factoring citizens into public governance. Stakeholder consultations on draft laws and regulations are now standard practice, although this often takes place rather late in the process.
  • A growing number of OECD countries are pursuing budget and procurement practices that aim to promote specific social and environmental goals. As of 2018, all OECD countries had implemented green strategies for public procurement (which accounted for 11.8% of GDP on average in 2017) and 17 countries were practising gender budgeting.
  • The OECD average for the Open, Useful and Re-usable (OURdata) Index, which benchmarks open government data policies and their implementation, increased from 0.53 in 2017 to 0.60 in 2019. Such an increase reflects the strides being made by countries in making data from public bodies available to all in open, free and accessible formats – another positive indication of public sector reforms being undertaken to reconnect with citizens and make governments more open, accountable and engaged.

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