25 April 2019

This year’s International Civil Service Effectiveness Index puts the UK at the top. Gavin Freeguard explains why it matters.

The 2019 International Civil Service Effectiveness Index (InCiSE), published today by our partners at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford, puts the UK top, ahead of New Zealand, Canada, Finland and Australia.

InCISE 2019: Overall country ranking

The UK also tops the charts for regulation and is in the top five countries for six of the other measures, including fiscal and financial management, and openness. But it’s not all good news for the UK, which has fallen behind Finland and Denmark on policy making. And the quality of the machinery says nothing about the competence of the driver operating it.

An effective civil service plays a vital role in a country’s progress and prosperity. InCiSE aims to provide a concise assessment of how a country’s central government civil service is performing compared with others around the world. It brings together existing data on functions ranging from policy making to crisis management, and attributes ranging from inclusiveness to integrity. This year’s index – the second, after the 2017 version – covers more countries, including more data, and with an improved methodology.

InCiSE has two main aims:

  • to help senior decision makers see which countries are performing well in particular areas and learn from them
  • to help citizens, officials and politicians understand how well their civil service is functioning.

The UK came fourth in the initial index, with Canada top. And it certainly sparked discussion – for example, on the UK’s barely above average score on integrity.

The index was launched two years ago, with the Institute for Government collaborating with the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, supported by the UK Civil Service and funded by the Open Society Foundations. If you have any ideas for improvements or refinements, feedback is welcome at incise@bsg.ox.ac.uk.