The Public Service is not the same as the public sector. The term “public sector” refers to all government organisations and their employees, as distinct from the private sector (private companies, non-government organisations, and their employees).

The Public Service consists of ministries and departments of Government. The Public Service is the core of the Government’s administrative machinery, but this machinery has other components. These include statutory authorities and agencies, Government foundations, and companies with a Government majority shareholding. These entities are part of the public sector but not the Public Service. The Public Service employs around 30,000 staff while another 20,000 or so staff are employed by entities in the wider public sector.

Public Service employees are referred to also as public officers and as Government employees. The latter term reflects the fact that Public Service employees work in ministries and departments, which are integral components of the Government of Malta. By contrast, entities in the wider public sector have their own legal personality which is separate from that of the Government – meaning that while such entities belong to the Government, they are not part of the Government. Accordingly, their employees are not Government employees.

The lack of a separate legal personality is not the only characteristic which ministries and departments have in common. They also share the following:

  • a common pay structure based on 20 salary scales.
  • a common career structure which enables Public Service employees to move from one ministry or department to another in the course of their careers.
  • appointments and discipline are governed by the Public Service Commission, an independent constitutional body which is tasked with ensuring that appointments are based on merit and that discipline is fair.

The boundary between the Public Service and the wider public sector is defined by the presence or absence of these characteristics and does not depend on the sector of operations. For instance, a member of the Police Force is a public officer, whereas a soldier in the Armed Forces of Malta is not. Similarly, a teacher in a state school is a public officer, whereas a lecturer at MCAST or the University of Malta is not.