The relationship between pay and performance in the Cambodian civil service

  • Ribaun Korm

    Student thesis: Professional Doctorate


    The civil service is a major influence in a country's development. Thus, government requires a good civil service, and improvements in public service performance must be a key goal for accelerating development and reducing poverty. However, in many developing countries, the capacity of civil services to carry out the necessary functions of government is often severely constrained. Civil servants do not perform their assigned tasks and they often fail to take responsibility for their actions. Management systems often function inefficiently. The result is disappointing performance and poor service quality. While there are many factors contributing to the disappointing level of civil service performance, pay has been a major concern. It is alleged that low pay is a primary cause of poor performance. But, there are few empirical investigations that support this argument. This thesis addresses this problem through a detailed empirical analysis of the relationship between pay and performance in the Cambodian civil service (CCS). Low pay has been a constant concern in the CCS since its inception in 1979. By 2009,the average state salary was US$75.5 per month, which was still below subsistence level income for a family. The gap between levels of state salaries and cost of living has been widening. These low income conditions of public servants have led them to pay less attention to their tasks and duties as they have diverted their time and effort to obtaining other sources of income including corruption and „moonlighting‟ in other jobs. Also, they may have deliberately reduced their performance effort or felt that low pay justified poor performance. As a result, public service delivery has suffered significantly. Many have asserted that pay has been closely linked to performance in the CCS and that pay has had a negative impact on performance. But until now there has been little or no empirical confirmation of this widely held belief. This thesis provides such confirmation. Interviews with a range of stakeholders in the Cambodian government, including central government personnel, educational administrators, and school teachers and principals revealed that pay was either the most important, or at least a highly significant factor influencing performance, and it either adversely affected job performance or led to dissatisfaction with civil service jobs. However, pay played little or no role in motivating people to seek civil service jobs nor did it encourage good performance for those employed. Rather, interviewees pointed to such factors as job security or lifelong employment, social status and prestige, future personal growth and other opportunities, and professionalism as performance motivating factors. Pay was the most important demotivational factor discouraging civil servants from performing their jobs well. This link between pay and performance was also investigated through the application of motivation theories which, with the exception of expectancy theory, provided relatively poor fit with the Cambodian case. Performance was also investigated in terms of organisational culture and politics in the CCS and both were found to be significant influences on behaviour.
    Date of Award2011
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMark Turner (Supervisor) & Phil Lewis (Supervisor)

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