Equal employment opportunity in public office in principle and practice : an empirical study of the Omani civil service.
The conceptual focus of this thesis is equal employment opportunity (EEO) when applied to a public personnel management system. In particular it fills a void in evaluating the concepts of Representative Bureaucracy and Management Diversity in both principle and practice, and in comprehending the extent to which their objectives can be translated into practical recruitment procedures. Moreover, the importance of organisational context is crucial. The study investigates how the merit principle can be sustained in a work environment where culture adversely affects organisational efficiency and EEO issues. The Omani public bureaucracy was taken as a case study. The study evaluates whether merit recruitment is embedded into the HRM system as demanded by the country's 1996 Basic Law. Oman faces serious challenges that necessitate efficient recruitment policy that can lead to an effective workforce. On the economic front, while population is rising, oil reserves are decreasing. Thus, the hiring of qualified civil servants is now essential for the country's future development. Politically, the governing elite gather public institutions under their command and operate on informal, personalistic and tribally-oriented work values. The result is a personnel and administrative system where public posts are filled based on nepotism, favouritism and ascriptive criteria, rather than on the basis of achievement and merit. The study argues that the time for reform has arrived to deal with challenges efficiently. After building a generic model of merit-based HRM, analysing the context of the public bureaucracy in Oman, examining the functions of personnel laws and institutions, and evaluating current recruitment activity in both policy and practice, a field study was undertaken to answer the study's questions and to test its hypotheses. The findings suggest that a Weberian type of rational-legal bureaucracy needs to be established. Despite the argument of the collapse of this approach in some western liberal democracies public personnel systems, the research shows that the basic concept of merit still survives in professional practice in other parts of the world where cultural values and social norms are preserved in the work-place. It particularly 'fits' the Omani context and provides an efficient EEO approach. The study confirms that blind imitation of western approaches may not be applicable or useful in developing states. Finally, the theoretical implications of the research are highlighted, with specific recommendations to ensure responsiveness to the merit-based recruitment model adopted by the study. The thesis should be of interest to both students and practitioners of public administration in the Arab Gulf region in particular, and developing countries in general.