Definition of the civil service noun from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary


the civil service

BrE BrE//ðə ˌsɪvl ˈsɜːvɪs//
; NAmE NAmE//ðə ˌsɪvl ˈsɜːrvɪs//
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the government departments in a country and the people who work for them, except the armed forces, judges and elected politicians He had a long career in the civil service. Word Originlate 18th cent.: originally applied to the part of the work of the British East India Company performed by staff who did not belong to the army or navy. Culturethe Civil ServiceBritish civil servants are servants of the Crown, which in practice means the government. Responsibility for the Civil Service is divided between the Cabinet Office and the Treasury. The Prime Minister is Minister for the Civil Service.Some civil servants work in government departments . They are expected to work with a government formed by any political party and to remain fair and impartial (= favouring no party), whatever their personal opinions. A change of government, or the appointment of a new minister in charge of a department, does not involve a change of its civil servants. This is very useful to ministers who are new to an area of responsibility and have little time to learn about it. The most senior civil servant in a department is called the Permanent Secretary.Ministers are not allowed to ask civil servants to do work that is intended to promote (= give support to) a political party. In the past ministers relied almost entirely on the advice of their civil servants when making decisions and the power that senior civil servants had over politicians has been shown in a humorous way in the television series Yes, Minister. Now, party politics and pressure from Members of Parliament and commercial organizations may have greater influence on decision-making.Most civil servants are not directly involved in government. They have technical or administrative jobs outside London, e.g. calculating and collecting taxes or paying social security benefits. The Civil Service Commissioners are responsible for employing new staff and for ensuring that recruitment methods are fair.In the US civil servants are government employees who are chosen on the basis of ability and experience, not political favour. The US Civil Service was created so that government employees would not lose their jobs every time a new president was elected. Although the President can appoint people to important jobs, the majority of the three million government employees are civil servants. People wanting a government job take the Civil Service Exam. Civil servants are expected to be loyal to the government, and not to any political party. Some people believe that, because it is difficult to dismiss civil servants, they do not work very hard or efficiently. Each individual state also has its own civil service which works in a similar way.
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: the civil service