(Weeks after a new administration was sworn in, residents lineup to submit resumes for jobs with the Education Secretariat of Japeri, a municipality in the state of Rio de Janeiro. Credit: Guillermo Toral).

In developing contexts – where job opportunities in the private sector are often scarce – the ability to appoint local officials is a major political resource for local politicians. Researchers have long studied the existence of patronage systems, or clientelism, in the allocation of public jobs. However, we still have a limited understanding of how politicians strategically use patronage systems, and how these strategies shape local governance.

With support from GOV/LAB, PhD candidate Guillermo Toral’s research explores these issues in the context of Brazilian municipal governments, focusing on education and healthcare bureaucracies. Using administrative micro-level datasets, surveys, and in-depth interviews, he studies the local politics around hiring. Guillermo’s research examines the following questions: How do politicians shape the bureaucracy? What kinds of political connections exist between bureaucrats and politicians, as a result of politicians’ efforts? How do those connections impact bureaucratic effectiveness, within-government accountability, and human development outcomes?

This research also explores the effectiveness of different policies aimed at decreasing patronage, such as legal limits to hiring around municipal elections, or community participation in certain bureaucratic appointments. Ultimately, this multi-methods examination of the politics of hiring in Brazilian local governments aims to expand the empirical base for policymakers working in public sector reform, an area that donors and civil society organizations around the world are increasingly recognizing as critical for development.

This research is related to GOV/LAB’s broader agenda on better understanding governments and bureaucracy, Unpacking the Black Box of Government Decision-Making.