Public Sector

Updated on April 15, 2024
Article byKosha Mehta
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What Is Public Sector?

The public sector is the portion of the economy that the government controls and manages. It consists of entities that offer public goods and services, including national defense, law enforcement, public education, health care, social welfare, and infrastructure development. Its purpose is to provide essential goods and services to the general public and ensure the well-being of the society as a whole.

What Is Public Sector

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Typically, these organizations are nonprofit and tax-funded, which means that they are financed by taxes paid by residents rather than through selling products and services. However, it is also the purpose and responsibility of the public sector to redistribute resources through progressive taxes and social programs to minimize economic disparity and assist those in need.

Key Takeaways

  • The public sector, sometimes known as the government sector, refers to government-owned and -operated enterprises, institutions, and agencies.
  • To ensure the well-being of society as a whole, the public sector provides essential goods and services to the general public.
  • The public sector is accountable to the government and citizens since tax dollars support it. Therefore, they must maintain operational and financial transparency.
  • Examples of public sector institutions include schools, hospitals, police agencies, and public transportation networks. The provision of these services is regarded as the government’s responsibility.

Public Sector Explained

The public sector is the portion of the economy that the government controls and manages. It consists of entities that offer public goods and services, including national defense, law enforcement, public education, health care, social welfare, and infrastructure development.

This involves improving social welfare and protecting national security. Through rules and regulations, the government ensures that the private sector functions in the best interest of residents. Employees in this sector are often viewed as civil servants committed to serving the general people.

Depending on the political and economic systems, the size and scope of the public sector might differ from country to country. In certain nations, the public sector is larger and more active in providing goods and services, whereas in others, the private sector is dominant.

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Key qualities of the public sector are as follows:

  • Organizations in the public sector are owned and governed by the government, as opposed to private persons or businesses.
  • Such organizations are often not driven by profit but rather by the desire to provide the public with essential products and services.
  • This sector provides critical commodities and services for the well-being of individuals, including education, healthcare, and infrastructure.
  • This sector is financed by taxes citizens pay instead of profits from selling products and services.
  • The government regulates the private sector through rules and regulations to guarantee that it functions in the best interest of residents.
  • The sector redistributes resources through progressive taxes and social programs to minimize economic inequality and assist the disadvantaged.


The public sector is fundamental to the operation of a society since it provides critical services for the well-being of its population. Among the most important functions are:

  • The public sector is responsible for safeguarding the nation from external threats and preserving internal security through the military and law enforcement organizations.
  • Public schools and colleges offer citizens an education, which is the basis of a stable and productive society.
  • The sector provides healthcare through government-run hospitals and clinics and national healthcare programs such as Medicaid and Medicare.
  • The public sector creates and maintains essential infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, and public transit networks.
  • The sector supports needy individuals through welfare programs such as food assistance, housing subsidies, and unemployment benefits.
  • This sector is responsible for conserving the environment and maintaining natural resources through enforcing rules and regulations and providing public services such as national parks and conservation areas.
  • Through rules and regulations, the public sector supervises the private sector to guarantee that it functions in the citizens’ best interest and safeguards the public interest.
  • It redistributes resources through progressive taxes and social programs to minimize economic inequality and assist those in need.


There are several public sector organizations, each with a unique set of duties and obligations. Some types include:

#1 – Executive Agencies

These organizations are directly governed by the government and are responsible for implementing particular policies and initiatives. The Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency are examples.

#2 – Independent Agencies

These organizations function independently from the government but are nonetheless seen as part of the sector. The Federal Reserve and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration are examples (NASA).

#3 – State-Owned Enterprises

These entities are government-owned and operate as for-profit corporations. Examples of nationalized businesses include electric and water utilities and public transportation services.

#4 – Public-Private Partnerships

These organizations result from a partnership between the corporate and public sectors. The private sector oversees day-to-day operations, while the public sector provides money and oversight. Examples are public-private collaborations in infrastructure projects and public services like schools and hospitals.

#5 – Local Governments

They are responsible for delivering services to inhabitants within a certain geographic region. City councils, county boards, and municipal administrations are examples.

#6 – Nonprofit Organizations

Nonprofit organizations collaborate with the government to provide public goods and services. Examples include organizations and nonprofits that support vulnerable populations with shelter and health care.


Let us look at the following examples better understand the concept.

Example #1

A NY Times piece highlights how the public housing sector in New York is experiencing difficulties. It argues that New York City’s public housing has not gotten sufficient funds from the government to address the aged structures, faulty heating systems, broken elevators, rats, and other issues that have made it a symbol of neglect. In addition, residents’ decreasing rent payments threaten to exacerbate the situation in the nation’s oldest and largest public housing system.

The New York City Housing Authority collected just 65 percent of the rent it charged in the 12 months before December, the lowest proportion in the agency’s almost 100-year history and an alarming decline from yearly pre-epidemic figures of 90 percent or more. Rent issues in New York City public housing are a new setback for an institution that, despite its many flaws, is crucial to New York, offering some of the few inexpensive dwellings in one of the most expensive cities in the country. The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) provides 340,000 individuals with housing and has more than 270 complexes.

Example #2

Government-run hospitals are an example of public sector organizations. The state or federal government owns and operates government-run hospitals that provide public healthcare services.

Typically, these hospitals are supported by public funds and function as nonprofit organizations. They may also obtain support from insurance companies and self-paying patients. Hospitals in the public sector frequently act as a safety net for low-income and uninsured patients and offer specialized treatments that may not be available in the private sector.

Advantages And Disadvantages

Let us look at this sector’s benefits and negatives to understand the concept better.

Benefits Of The Public Sector

  • Public sector organizations offer important services such as healthcare, education, and transportation to all individuals, regardless of income or social standing.
  • Organizations in the sector are frequently founded to address social concerns such as poverty, inequality, and prejudice.
  • Economic stability: By providing jobs, products, and services to the public, such enterprises play a vital role in preserving economic stability.
  • Institutions such as the military and intelligence agencies must defend the nation’s national security.
  • The sector is responsible for constructing and maintaining economic growth-critical infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and public transit.

Negatives Of The Public Sector

  • They are often criticized for being bureaucratic and slow to adapt to changing demands.
  • These organizations are frequently criticized for their inefficiency and waste of taxpayer funds.
  • Such organizations are frequently accused of being reluctant to change and lacking the private sector’s creativity and adaptability.
  • These are frequently exposed to political intervention, which can lead to choices being taken for political rather than practical reasons.
  • These organizations are frequently subject to stringent restrictions and monitoring, which might hinder their capacity to operate efficiently.

Public Sector Vs Nonprofit

  • Ownership and finance are the primary differences between the public sector and nonprofit organizations. The government owns and operates public sector organizations, whereas nonprofit organizations are often autonomous and reliant on contributions and grants for funding.
  • Moreover, the purpose and objectives of the two types of organizations may differ. Typically, public sector organizations exist to offer necessary services and infrastructure to the public, whereas nonprofit organizations serve a specific social cause or objective.
  • Public sector organizations are accountable to the government and taxpayers, whereas nonprofit organizations are accountable to their stakeholders, including contributors, volunteers, and members.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What was the role of the public sector before 1991?

Before 1991, the primary function of the public sector was to provide products and services to the public via government-run organizations and agencies. Among these were infrastructure, education, healthcare, and social services. Additionally, the government had a significant role in regulating and overseeing several sectors.

Should public sector be privatized?

The argument over whether the public sector should be privatized concentrates on the possible benefits of enhanced efficiency and cost-effectiveness versus concerns over the loss of government control and the potential detrimental effects on particular groups.

Why public sector is important?

In providing necessary services, the public sector promotes social welfare and offers reasonable market pricing for necessary services. In addition, it safeguards against poverty and inequality by addressing essential requirements, such as healthcare, education, and infrastructure development.

How public sector contribute to economic development?

The public sector plays a significant role in economic growth by investing in infrastructure, providing basic services, and encouraging fair competition and laws. It also contributes to reducing inequality and advancing social well-being.

This article has been a guide to what is Public Sector. Here, we explain its examples, roles, advantages, disadvantages, types, characteristics, vs nonprofit. You may also find some useful articles here:

Reader Interactions


  1. Darvie says

    Good note

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