This article analyses the transformations in the regulation of public service employment relations in Italy and France over the last decades, within the context of the wider bureaucratic reform agenda in the two countries and in the light of the New Public Management approach. It shows that, despite the link with a common administrative tradition, the reform trajectories in the two countries have started to diverge in the early 1980s, and even more since the 1990s. Italy adopted more closely the NPM precepts, despite some inconsistencies, and probably some of the regulatory difficulties it has recently experienced are also connected with the theoretical weaknesses of these precepts. France has been rather more cautious in moving towards the NPM approach, preserving several features typical of its administrative tradition, to begin with the special employment status of its more than 5 million public employees; a model which has been labelled as neo-weberian. In comparative perspective, the article confirms the opportunity to analyse different national reform trajectories, rooted into country-specific legal and institutional traditions, rather than hypothesize universal processes of convergence towards the sole regulatory model represented by the New Public Management.
Keywords: Public administration; Public employment; Administrative reform; New Public Management; Public service employment relations; Italy; France