The term civil service has two distinct meanings:
A civil servant or public servant is a civilian career public sector employee working for a government department or agency. The term explicitly excludes the armed services, although civilian officials will work at "Defence Ministry" headquarters. The term always includes the (sovereign) state's employees; whether regional, or sub-state, or even municipal employees are called "civil servants" varies from country to country. In the United Kingdom, for instance, only Crown employees are civil servants, county or city employees are not.
Many consider the study of civil service to be a part of the field of public administration. Workers in "non-departmental public bodies" (sometimes called "QUANGOs") may also be classed as civil servants for the purpose of statistics and possibly for their terms and conditions. Collectively a state's civil servants form its Civil Service or Public Service.
One of the oldest examples of a civil service based on meritocracy is the Imperial bureaucracy of China, which can be traced as far back as the Qin Dynasty (221–207 BC). During the Han Dynasty (202 BC–220 AD) the xiaolian system of recommendation by superiors for appointments to office was established. In the areas of administration, especially in the military, appointments would be based solely on merit.
After the fall of the Han Dynasty, the Chinese bureaucracy would regress into a semi-merit system known as the Nine-rank system, yet in this system noble birthright became the most significant prerequisite for one to gain access to more authoritative posts.
This system was reversed during the shortlived Sui Dynasty (581–618), which initiated a civil service bureaucracy recruited by written examinations and recommendation. The following Tang Dynasty (618–907) would adopt the same measures of drafting officials, and would decreasingly rely upon aristocratic recommendations and more and more upon promotion based on the written examinations.
However, the civil service examinations were practiced on a much smaller scale in comparison to the strong, centralized bureaucracy of the Song Dynasty (960–1279). In response to the regional military rule of jiedushi and loss of civil authority during the late Tang period and Five Dynasties (907–960), the Song emperors were eager to implement a system where civil officials would owe their social prestige to the central court and gain their salaries strictly from the central government. This ideal was not fully achieved since many scholar officials were affluent landowners and partook in many anonymous business affairs in an age of economic revolution in China. Nonetheless, gaining a degree through three levels of examination — prefectural exams, provincial exams, and the prestigious palace exams — was a far more desirable goal in society than becoming a merchant. This was because the mercantile class was traditionally regarded with some disdain by the scholar official class. This class of state bureaucrats in the Song period were far less aristocratic than their Tang predecessors. The examinations were carefully structured in order to ensure people of lesser means than candidates born into wealthy, landowning families were given a greater chance at passing the exams and gaining an official degree. This included the employment of a bureau of copyists who would rewrite all of the candidate's exams in order to mask one's handwriting and therefore make all candidates anonymous and unable to employ favoritism by graders of the exams who might be associated to them and recognize their handwriting. The advent of widespread printing in the Song period allowed many more candidates of the exams access to required Confucian texts which could be utilized in passing the exams.
Canada's public service is a large body, with over 200 departments and 450,000 members, including commissions, councils, crown corporations, the Office of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The civil service in France is often considered to include government employees, as well as employees of public corporations.
The civil service in the United Kingdom only includes Crown employees; not those who are parliamentary employees. Public sector employees such as teachers and NHS doctors are not considered to be civil servants. Note that civil servants in devolved government departments in Northern Ireland are not part of the British Civil Service, but constitute the separate Northern Ireland Civil Service.
The Irish Civil Service includes the employees of the Department of State (except for Government ministers and a small number of paid political advisors) as well as a small number of core state agencies such as the Office of the Revenue Commissioners, Office of Public Works, and the Public Appointments Service. The organisation of the Irish Civil Service is very similar to the traditional organisation of the British Civil Service, and indeed the grading system in the Irish Civil Service is nearly identical to the traditional grading system of its British counterpart.
In Ireland, public sector employees such as members of An Garda Siochana and teachers are not considered to be civil servants, but are rather described as public servants (and form the Public service of the Republic of Ireland).
Other countries tend to use systems which vary between these two extremes. Germany makes a clear distinction, as in the U.S., between political and official posts (though the threshold is placed rather higher); also see Beamter.
The Brazilian civil service is composed mostly of career servants, with nomination based on written examinations. Politicians may nominate candidates for some posts, especially higher ones.
Wednesday Law Report: Proceedings to Make Antisocial Behaviour Order Are Civil Proceedings ; 23 October 2002 Clingham V Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea; Regina (on the Application of McCann and Others) V Crown Court at Manchester ( UKHL 39) House of Lords (Lord Steyn, Lord Hope of Craighead, Lord Hutton, Lord Hobhouse of Woodborough, Lord Scott of Foscote) 17 October 2002
Oct 23, 2002; PROCEEDINGS FOR the making of an antisocial behaviour order under section 1 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 are civil...