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Day 77 – Q 4.Do you think the salaries of civil servants should be increased to reduce corruption? Critically comment.

4. Do you think the salaries of civil servants should be increased to reduce corruption? Critically comment.   

क्या आपको लगता है कि भ्रष्टाचार को कम करने के लिए सिविल सेवकों का वेतन बढ़ाया जाना चाहिए? समालोचनात्मक टिप्पणी करें।


“Administration, of which civil servants are a part of, is meant to achieve something and not to exist in some kind of an ivory tower following certain rules of procedure and Narcissus-like looking on itself with complete satisfaction. The test after all, is a human being and their welfare.”                          

                                                                            – PANDIT JAWAHARLAL NEHRU 


  • In 2014, former director of the Global Indicators Group at the World Bank, posited six strategies to combat corruption in administration where increasing the pay of civil servants was the first strategy. Others included creating transparency and openness in government spending, cut red tape, etc. 
  • Salary increases can be used by governments to compensate for hardship jobs or increased workloads. The extent to which salary increases can be used as an anti-corruption strategy must be seen in the context of how salaries can reduce or increase incentives for corruption. 
  • There is a broad consensus that low salaries for civil servants in developing countries can create incentives for corruption. Scholars point to the negative relationship between the level of civil service salaries and incidences of corruption, contending that poorly paid civil servants are more vulnerable to illicit rent seeking.
  • The perception of failure to receive adequate remuneration may also reduce the moral costs of corruption. In other words, public officials might find it less unacceptable – thus more tolerable – to accept bribes if they are poorly paid. Similarly, it has been argued that there is greater public tolerance for corrupt practices when civil servants are underpaid.
  • Due to perceptions of unfair payment, lower compensation level in the public sector as compared to that of the private one is reckoned as a key factor in the spread of corruption. There is also the risk that higher pay in the private sector may lead to a brain drain in the public sector as staff are drawn towards better-paying positions.  
  • It has also been argued that low salaries in the public service attract only incompetent or even dishonest applicants, which results in an inefficient and nontransparent corrupt administration
  • Other than alleviating the ‘need ‘ for corruption, a main argument in favour of raising salaries to reduce corruption is the so-called “efficiency wage” argument, which maintains that higher salaries raise the stakes of engaging in corruption. In other words, higher salaries make it more costly to engage in corruption due to the fear of losing a well-paid job. Similarly, the “fair wage model” contends that officials engage in corruption only when they see themselves as not receiving a “fair” income, a perception that could be eliminated through higher salaries

But recently, there has been an emerging consensus that increasing salary may not be sufficient for reducing corruption, in the absence of effective controls and management of staff and resources. Here, higher wages alone are unlikely to lead to a reduction in corruption. It is assumed that other factors than underpayment are either more important or necessary for underpaid officials to resort to corruption.

  • Moreover, most studies agree that increasing salaries without establishing effective control and monitoring systems as well as enforcement of appropriate sanctions is unlikely to have an effect on corruption. 
  • impact of salary raises on corruption is contingent on other necessary conditions in human resource management, on both the micro-level and the macro level. 
  • This includes integrity enhancement in personnel recruitment, training, appraisal and promotion, as well as strengthening accountability, transparency and equal opportunities in public personnel management. 
  • In the above World Bank report, the author himself argues that “an approach that focuses solely on changing the rules and the incentives, accompanied by appropriately harsh punishment for violation of the rules, is likely to be far more effective if it is also supported by efforts to buttress the moral and ethical foundation of human behaviour.”
  • In fact, there is considerable evidence to suggest that corruption or corrupt behaviour is more a state of mind than anything else. A 2010 study in Ghana is a case in point where in a bid to reduce endemic corruption on its highways, decided to double the wages of its traffic policemen which was later seen as ineffective.
  • In the Indian context, it would be wrong to conclude that better pay would reduce corruption. Instead of knee-jerk responses like pointing to pay disparities or ownership, the government needs to urgently tighten scrutiny and oversight mechanisms in administration to prevent future corruption scandals.
  • Recent instances prove that the canker of corruption has blighted the higher echelons of the civil service. While punitive action and speedier sanctions to investigating agencies will increase deterrence, bureaucrats must learn to stand up to unethical pressure from political masters.
  • The Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA), 1988 and its subsequent amendments have had only a marginal impact. 


The fight against corruption in public service is extremely problem-ridden, because the canker has spread to the higher echelons of the civil service. Political will combined with greater courage on the part of senior officials to stand up to unethical pressure from above can do a lot to stem the rot. Public vigilance coupled with media support will also help greatly.

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