NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Political Economy of Public Sector Absence: Experimental Evidence from Pakistan

Michael Callen, Saad Gulzar, Syed Ali Hasanain, Yasir Khan

NBER Working Paper No. 22340
Issued in June 2016
NBER Program(s):Development Economics, Political Economy

This paper presents evidence that one cause of absenteeism in the public sector is that government jobs are handed out as patronage. First, politicians routinely interfere when bureaucrats sanction absent doctors, and doctors are more absent in uncompetitive constituencies and when connected to politicians. Next, we find that the effects of two experimental interventions to address absence are attenuated in uncompetitive constituencies and for connected doctors. The first is a smartphone monitoring technology that nearly doubles inspection rates, and the second, representing the first experiment on the effects of providing data to policymakers, channels real time information on doctor absence.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22340

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