The Working Conditions of Elite Politicians and Administrators at the National and Local Level

Ulf Hjelmar, Lene Holm Pedersen, Yosef Bhatti

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearchpeer-review


    This paper compares the working conditions of elite politicians and administrators. These groups allegedly have overlapping roles, which sometimes is characterized by politicians dominating managers, and in other cases as bureaucrats dominating the powerless politicians. But how do the working conditions of the political and administrative elites compare? This is a central question in order to understand not just the power balance between the two groups but also the attractiveness of recruitment into the respective professions.
    We take departure in a unique survey of all Danish ministers and mayors as well as their top-administrators. This allows us to make a comparative analysis between top-politicians and top-administrators at the national as well as the local level. The survey asked respondents questions related to their overall time consume, work related pressure, the relationship between family and work, exposure to the media, and harassment/threats against the politicians or their families. More than 70% of the ministers and mayors answered the survey. The surveys were supplemented by in-depth interviews with 3 ministers, 4 mayors and 5 top-administrators concerning the same topics analyzed in NVivo. The data collection allows us to provide a unique insight into the working conditions of top politicians and compare them on a range of dimensions with top-administrators. We are furthermore able to examine the heterogeneity in working conditions between different types of politicians, specifically between elite politicians working at different layers of government (ministers versus mayors). The results indicate that top politicians work longer hours compared to their top administrators, their work-life balance is more damaging to their families, and they are to a larger extent exposed to harassment. Comparing the national and the local level politicians at the national level work longer hours, but surprisingly the politicians at the local level are equally much exposed to face-to-face harassment, though less to harassment on the social media. In comparison to the top politicians, the top administrators are less exposed to harassment. The implications of these results for the power balance between top politicians and administrators are discussed.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication date2016
    Publication statusPublished - 2016
    EventThe 20th Annual Conference of International Research Society for Public Management. IRSPM 2016 - City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
    Duration: 13 Apr 201615 Apr 2016
    Conference number: 20


    ConferenceThe 20th Annual Conference of International Research Society for Public Management. IRSPM 2016
    LocationCity University of Hong Kong
    Country/TerritoryHong Kong
    Internet address

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