Des bureaucraties de terrain qui changent ? Pouvoir discrétionnaire et régimes d accountability aux premières lignes de l administration publique : la mise en oeuvre de la politique suisse en matière de chômage

Auteur Aurélien BUFFAT
Directeur /trice prof. Ioannis Papadopoulos (Université de Lausanne)
Co-directeur(s) /trice(s)
Résumé de la thèse

This PhD dissertation mainly deals with the role of public administration in policy implementation in the Swiss context. It focuses on street-level bureaucracy, a specific type of public organisations and agents located at the frontline of public action, that is to say low-level civil servants who are in direct, daily and face-to-face contact with the population. Based on Lipsky’s traditional conceptualization according to which street-level bureaucrats do dispose of a substantial discretionary power in their relationship with citizens and of a relative autonomy vis-à-vis the organizational hierarchy, the research project seeks to understand what are the concrete impacts of two main important and recent changes that have spread into public sector for the last 20 years : on the one hand, the project investigates what have been the consequences of New Public Management reforms (NPM) in such public organizations ; on the other hand, the research also studies the effects of new information and communication technologies (ICTs) on the street-level work. Hence, the main research questions are the following : what becomes street-level bureaucrats’ room for manoeuvre in such reformed and informatized organisations ? Is their autonomy of decision weakened or strenghtened by thoses changes ? How do control procedures and more broadly dominant mechanisms of account giving – i.e accountability regimes - evolve at the field-level ? Do street-level bureaucrats still exert their policy making role as Lipsky’s argument put it ? Finally, does a new type of street-level bureaucrat emerge from this new context of reforms ?


At the empirical level, an in-depth case study of the Swiss unemployment policy and its implementation at the regional street-level is provided. In this specific policy sector, two types of frontline public agents are studied (in one selected cantonal public administration) : on the one hand, the employees of a regional unemployment centre (job placement advisers), that are responsible for job placement and professional reintegration ; on the other hand, the workers of a cantonal unemployment insurance funds (taxators), who are responsible for determining eligibility for unemployment benefits and monthly payments. The data are gathered by extensive fieldwork achieved directly in the two chosen organisations, in which an ethnographic approach is used. It combines three principal methodologies : direct observation of daily work, semi-structured interviews with the whole staff (for a total of 40-45 interviews) and extensive document analysis.


Délai administratif de soutenance de thèse