Task matters : A structural-instrumental analysis of the autonomy of hong kong government bodies

Research output: Journal Publications and ReviewsRGC 21 - Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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  • Martin Painter
  • Wai-Hang Yee

Related Research Unit(s)


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395-410
Journal / PublicationAmerican Review of Public Administration
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011


What might account for the varying degrees of autonomy granted to public agencies? One broad range of answers is provided by a structural-instrumental perspective on organizations, which assumes that the assignment of autonomy is a response to structural features of organizing on the one hand and to task considerations on the other. Taking the case of Hong Kong, data from a survey of chief executives of 111 government agencies on perceptions of autonomy are analyzed to explore a series of propositions concerning the relationships between structure, task, and perceived autonomy. The method of ordinary least square regression is used to analyze the data. Overall, the findings show that variables describing key features of structure and task do help to explain degrees of autonomy. However, two propositions drawn from rational choice theory concerning task-related variables are not confirmed: public service delivery organizations are under tighter, not looser control, whereas regulatory agencies show no tendency toward autonomy. Interpretation of the findings points to significant features of Hong Kong's constitutional and political history which highlight the importance of contextualization. © The Author(s) 2011.

Research Area(s)

  • autonomy and control, Hong Kong, independent agencies, public bodies