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21st Century Responsibilities for Public Servants: The Grand Exodus

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Andrew Vaz
February 23, 2024

This new century brings forth an opportunity for change—through technology, culture and society. This century also brings the prospect for innovation for the public sector. Those who work in the government are trained within their agencies to serve the public with services that assist in their daily lives. With that, comes new responsibilities that workers in government and non-profit agencies would have to adapt to in order to be effective in this new century. Responsibilities that could lead to a large reduction of public sector workers across all agencies within the not so distant future.

Who Are the Public Sector Workers?

Public servants have largely been thought to reside in the public sector, but with increasingly mixed economies of welfare, many who have public service roles work for for-profit or not-for-profit organizations outside of the public sector. These include teachers, police officers and administrative officials. Beyond these roles, public sector workers also include our representatives in legislative office—the House of Representatives, the Senate and the White House. This also includes members of our judicial branch as well.

What Are Their Responsibilities in the 21st Century?

We all know the enormous responsibility that lies on the shoulders of those who have the opportunity to work in the public sector today. Taxpayers count on the public sector to deliver adequate services professionally. What has changed is that the services can now be provided online. E-government websites have replaced in-person visits with these services.

The Rise of E-government and Online Delivery Services

The internet maybe the new place where citizens can access government assistance, but the push for more e-services is the result of an emergency situation. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the need for governments to become more and more digitally accessible for their citizens as an increasing percentage of people have become more digitally savvy.

Duty to Make the Citizen More Visible

Public servants work for the government, serving the taxpayers. They enjoy serving the public, but they must do more to make the citizen increasingly visible in the age of digital communication. This requires public sector leaders to understand and address the factors that make increasing engagement in the public sector a special challenge.

Research conducted by Gallup and the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service revealed that when citizens report having positive interactions with public servants, they are three times more likely to hold positive opinions of government in general. Engaged public servants can move the needle of public opinion about government, one interaction at a time.

Government will continue to protect citizens from violence and from the worst vicissitudes of life. Government will also continue to provide public goods, at a level necessary to ensure a globally competitive economy and a well-functioning society.

The Grand Exodus of Public Sector Workers

This century will also see a relatively, new phenomena develop: young professionals retiring from public service early. In the past, workers in government would desire to put in decades of service. Now, we are going to see more public sector workers leave early instead of working towards a guaranteed retirement package. There is a multitudes of reasons for this, but for the purposes of this article, we can determine that better opportunities in the private sector for employment and better pay are the primary reasons.

For these government and non-government agencies, this will become a problem. Without workers, agencies might shutdown or dissolve completely. 21st century public sector workers have to deal with austerity. Austerity measures are considered harsh economic policies intended to reduce the government’s budget deficit. These policies can include reductions in government spending and increased taxes. Austerity measures are commonly used with contractionary fiscal policy. It can also be used when a nation’s government faces default.

This is also compounded by an aging workforce. At the other end of the employee life cycle, it is crucial to recruit highly motivated new people to replace the departing baby boomers. Young, talented workers will have the knowledge of digital technology and versatility required to deal with the changes in the workplace environment.


As long as we are going to have government and non-profit agencies providing our society essential services daily, workers are going to adjust to a work experience that will involve austerity and a shorter career length. Public services of the future require a different set of workforce roles than in the past. Those roles needs to adhere to the demands and expectations of the public that will continue to evolve.

Author: Andrew R. Vaz, Ph.D. is a graduate of the Ph.D. in Public Policy and Ad-ministration program at Walden University, already awarded a Master of Philosophy degree in the program. He is also a graduate of the Master of Science in Criminal Justice and Master of Public Administration double master’s program at Florida International University. He can be reached at [email protected].

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