The administration rate: a misleading indicator
The number of public jobs per 1,000 inhabitants varies greatly from one country to another: it is 39 in Japan compared with160 in Norway. France has a relatively high rate, with 91 public jobs per 1,000 inhabitants, though this figure is lower than in the Nordic countries. The scope of public administration, however, varies from one country to another, making it difficult to offer international comparisons. By considering only public administration jobs, other posts financed by public authorities are concealed.
Taking public expenditure into account
To integrate these indirect public jobs, it is necessary to look at the level of public expenditure,particularly operating expenditures and social benefits. For operating expenditures, France's situation, in seventh position, does not appear exceptionally atypical. Remuneration expenditure is high (13% of GDP in 2017, in fourth position), because of a high level of administration. Yet when considering all public operating expenditures, direct and indirect aspects, the differences between countries tend to diminish. By including "non-personnel" expenditure, direct operating expenses are contained at 18% of GDP in 2017---a level close to that of the United Kingdom, Austria, Portugal and Belgium. This moderation can be explained, above, all by the generally low weight of intermediate consumption of government operating expenditures in France --28% compared with 47% in the United Kingdom, for example. France makes greater use of direct employment and less use of outsourcing. Finally, transfers in the kind of market services for the benefit of the population --reimbursement of consultations, personalized housing assistance, and so forth-- account for 6% of GDP in France, compared with 8% in Germany, 9% in Japan and 10% in the Netherlands.
France, therefore, has relatively high public operating expenditures without standing out particularly. On the other hand, it is distinguished for the extent of social cash benefits --pensions, unemployment, social minima, family allowances, and so forth—that constitute the main source of public expenditure: 20% of GDP compared with 15% in Germany. This is a record in international comparisons on a level with Italy.
What spending in which countries?
In most of the countries under consideration, including France, education is the largest item of public expenditure for personnel. In other countries, it is health (Finland, Norway or the United Kingdom), or financial, or in-kind benefits related to social protection (Denmark, Sweden). If all public expenditure, not only personnel expenditure, in which education is a factor, France ranks in eighth place, with 5.4% of GDP, as in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, but one point above Germany.
In France, human resources, both public and private, devoted to health and social action, which account for 11% of GDP, put it in second place, together with Germany, Sweden and Japan, compared with 17% in the United States. If one compares this expenditure per capita and not to GDP, France is more in the middle of the table, due to a lower level of per capita income than in the countries spending most on health. Large disparities exist between countries in the rate of administration of the health and social sector. This is often explained by the varying importance of services provided to citizens by private sector market producers.
 Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States.