Purpose of this paper: A number of studies and indicators have ranked European countries in terms of the performance of their public sectors. This paper demonstrates there are important conceptual problems with such rankings and comparisons. Design/methodology/approach: Using the existing indicators, the paper first shows how European countries’ public sectors are ranked. It then goes on to show how conceptual problems with these indicators may lead to incorrect conclusions. Findings: Countries’ public sector performance cannot be summarised using a single indicator because of our inability to define ‘the public sector’ and the disagreement on what it means for public sectors to perform. Practical implications: Despite increasing demand and supply in policy circles for international public sector indicators, the existing ones are unreliable. What is original / value of paper? This paper extends the assessment of international public sector indicators beyond a mere technical evaluation.

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Keywords comparative public administration, governance indicators, public sector performance
Persistent URL hdl.handle.net/1765/13605
Van de Walle, S.G.J.. (2008). Comparing the performance of national public sectors: Conceptual problems. International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, 329–338. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/13605