|Despite an international trend towards the downsizing of public sector workforces, the French “Fonction Publique” has increased in size until the year 2005. This development is astonishing insofar as successive French governments put considerable efforts in the reduction of public personnel. In a first step, this working paper analyses possible causes of this contradictory development and pays special attention to structural reform obstacles and the impact of the French decentralisation strategy. In a second step, the paper looks into the question if the low quantitative flexibility of public employment in France was compensated for by a qualitative change of employment relationships. The findings of this endeavour are ambivalent: Whereas on the level of central government reforms of personnel policies were hardly possible, public employment on the municipal level not only increased substantially but was also characterised by a more flexible approach towards human resources management. It can be concluded that reforms of public employment in France are most likely to be inspired from the outside, i.e. either from the municipal margin of the public sector or from other fields of public administration.
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