It is a fact that a huge percentage of would-be employees in Malawi would prefer working in the private sector than government. Most people attribute this to the fact that the private sector has better working conditions than government.
In Malawi, it seems, it is more rewarding to be employed by the private sector than government. That people who work in government do not enjoy life as their counterparts in the private sector is typified by the differences in lifestyles.
Most people who work in the private sector prosper faster than those in government. While a person employed in some private sector companies would, within a year of employment, manage to purchase a fridge, it would be a far-fetched dream for a civil servant to do the same.
However, although it is clear that most people shun government for such reasons as poor and delayed perks and bureaucracy, it remains to be explained why top dogs in public service never seem to want to turn things around and make the sector attractive.
As efforts to improve things in government continues through the Public Sector Reforms initiative, government continues to reel from brain drain as a host of qualified people continues shunning public service in favour of the private sector.
This development has crippled service delivery in most government departments. One ministry that faces brain drain is that of Health, where most graduates prefer to work for private hospitals or even work abroad due to poor working conditions.
One gets the true picture on how poor most government departments have degenerated when one seeks services from such departments. A typical government department is characterised by bureaucracy and a laissez faire attitude by employees who are mostly working with very minimal resources.
In an ideal world, top officials in government would strive to improve in service delivery so that everyone, regardless of social status, has access to quality services. But in Malawi, this is a far-fetched dream.
In most cases, however, it is the poor in society who encounter such poor service delivery, as most well-to-do people will seek services in private hospitals or send their children to private schools, for example.
This is sadly what has contributed to the worsening poor service delivery in government. The lack of adequate staff and resources has further dealt government a deadly blow.
Though patriotism is good to an extent, but it has limits. How can one work for government with all the poor conditions happening to the few brave Malawians still working for it.
Civil servants, although poorly paid continue to be paid late sometimes even on the 15th of the following month, with only a few days to another pay day? So how can a person survive on a poor salary that comes so late?
These delays in salary payments might look like a small issue for someone who does not experience the effects of the delays, but they have grave effects on families. Employees feel neglected by their employers, hence they cannot work diligently. This affects their attitude towards work as well as their productivity.
Furthermore, this kind of treatment does little to endear some who would want to work for the same employer. This is why despite the many vacancies in government; people prefer to work in the private sector.
It is high time government improved the image of the civil service to attract employees to its fold. And the improvement of government image should start with timely payment of salaries.