Strategy & Leadership

Article | The public sector’s stress test

November 17, 2021


The public sector’s stress test

November 17, 2021

Yuxin Lin

Senior Manager, Policy & Insights

Yuxin is a senior manager on the Policy & Insights team. She leads research and analysis projects across a range of sectors including financial services, technology and NGOs. Based in Washington DC, Yuxin specializes in international trade and finance, demographics and workforce, emerging markets, and megatrends.

Prior to joining the Economist Group, Yuxin was vice president at FP Analytics of Foreign Policy, where she consulted with governments, international institutions and companies on trade, energy and social policies and investment strategies.

Yuxin holds an MBA from McDonough School of Business of Georgetown University and a BA in Management from University of International Business and Economics.

Public sector workers have been through a lot since the covid-19 pandemic began.

Many frontline workers were local government employees charged with keeping trains and buses moving. Police, fire and emergency medical services personnel couldn’t stay home during lockdowns. Educators rapidly adapted curricula to online learning platforms. Public health workers coordinated covid-19 public awareness and vaccination campaigns. And millions of less visible local, state and federal workers kept governments functioning while shifting to remote work.

To understand the experience of public sector workers, Economist Impact surveyed 1,292 public sector workers and 156 public sector senior managers working in US local, state and federal governments. The survey assessed worker concerns, remote work experiences, as well as organisations’ digital maturity, technology investments, skills and capabilities, and outlooks on the future. Survey results surfaced significant negative impacts from covid-19 on the wellbeing of public sector workers, but also relative optimism about their relationship with employers, day-to-day finances and job security. Surveyed senior management made clear that critical changes are on the horizon—like so many other sectors, the public sector is prioritising digital transformation and grappling with a tech skills gap.

Key Findings

  1. Governments have prioritised safety and wellbeing amid the pandemic, rendering workers optimistic about their relationship with their organisation.
  2. Despite the improvements in workplace culture within public sector organisations, the pandemic’s negative impact on workers’ wellbeing and financial concerns remained widespread.
  3. Digital transformation has accelerated since the covid-19 pandemic, while also paving the way for the expansion of remote work.

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