Contact person:
Patrik Hall
  • Swedish Research Council for Health
  • Working life and Welfare
  • Swedish Research Council for Health Working life and Welfare
Responsible at Malmö University:
Patrik Hall
  • Linda Nyberg - Lunds universitet
  • Karl Löfgren - Wellington School of Government
Collaborators and other project members:
  • Victoria University
  • Lund University
Time frame:
01 July 2019 - 30 June 2022
Research environment :
Research subject:

About the project

The objective of this research project is to describe and explain the expansion of organisational professionals within public organisations. This group consists of managers and high-level administrators (e.g. economists, HR, strategists, communicators) whose primary role is to manage functions such as quality control, audits and review, performance management, and organisational branding.

Research suggests that the number of organisational professionals appears to be increasing at a higher rate than core operational staff: what has been described as a decrease of ‘warm’ hands (teachers, health staff and social workers) in exchange for an increase in ‘cold’ hands (managerial and monitoring office staff), and thus a risk of bureaucratising public organisations. This project will further our understanding and provide evidence of this development and the driving factors behind through a unique comparison between Sweden and New Zealand – the latter a country with a strongly centralist tradition within the public sector in contrast to the decentralised structure of the Swedish public sector.

The project consists of two phases. The first entails a descriptive statistical study of the development of organisational professionals vis-à-vis other professional groups in large public organisations from 1990 and onwards. In the second phase, three main hypotheses on the mechanisms behind the (potential) expansion of organisational professionals will be tested, related to delegated budgets, organisational size, and a comparison between “soft” and “technical” public sector services.

The project speaks to the need to understand and address challenges facing public sector work in the near future. The expansion of the number and influence of organisational professionals has been connected to an increase in administrative tasks, connected to managerial demands, for core operative staff. Overpowering administrative burdens has been identified as one of the big challenges to the quality and sustainability of public sector work life, affecting issues of occupational health and work satisfaction due to increasing workloads.