reform by CH2e39




Defra has a wide ranging and exciting portfolio, providing opportunities for new entrants to
pursue their interests in issues like environmental policy and develop the role of economics
in order to influence policymaking across Government and beyond. Defra economists
routinely use elements of environmental and agricultural economics, behavioural
economics, valuation and appraisal, and quantitiative modelling.

Economists work on a range of economic issues. As an Assistant Economist, you will have
the opportunity to apply environmental economics to policymaking, for example,
developing models to value the impacts of air pollution or undertaking ground-breaking
analysis to understand the importance of the natural environmental in supporting our well-
being and economic growth. Defra’s policies see a high level of public and media interest,
such as CAP reform, animal welfare, floods and drought, and food security. Defra’s remit
extends beyond UK borders, addressing environmental issues of global importance, such as
adaptation to climate change, biodiversity and managing the marine environment. Defra
recently led the UK’s actions at the UN “Rio+20” Conference on Sustainable Development.
Many of Defra’s policies lie at the heart of society’s quality of life, such as local
environmental quality, developing rural areas, and waste and recycling. Defra represent the
interests of key groups such as farmers, fishermen, and environmental NGOs. Defra’s
policies seek to ensure long-term and sustainable quality of life for UK citizens across all
generations, through its leadership on well-being, sustainable development and green

As an Assistant Economist in Defra you might, for example, find yourself:

      considering how to adapt to climate change;
      investigating links between productivity growth and the environment;
      investigating social exclusion in rural areas;
      ensuring biodiversity and natural resource issues are considered in policy design and
      investigating air and water quality issues;
      analysing and advising on marine and fisheries policy
      advising on waste and recycling policy in the UK;
      analysing how interlinkages between urban and rural areas impact on the economy
       at a local and regional level;
      considering economic aspects of ethical trading and the environmental impacts of
       food transport;
      providing economic advice in the areas of animal diseases and welfare, such as avian
       influenza, bovine TB, and [topical example on animal welfare]
      appraising relevant economic instruments that address the environmental impacts
       of agriculture;
      analysing budget, trade and enlargement issues relating to the Common Agricultural
      Advising on floods and drought
      Providing analysis and support on the international agenda e.g. OECD, Rio+20, etc.


Working as an economist in Defra is exciting, challenging and rewarding as you will be
working on high profile, dynamic areas of economics with plenty of opportunity to shape

Our Work

A large proportion of Defra’s work is at the cutting edge of economic analysis. As a
department we deal with instances of externalities and the resulting market failures in many
different policy areas, designing market-based instruments, as well as contributing to the
development of new policy options and measuring costs and benefits. Defra’s economists
are configured in teams working across groups concerned with environment and growth,
the natural environment, food and farming and strategy and performance.

Your location in any of Defra’s policy areas will give you experience of working with a wide
range of experienced economists, other analysts and policy colleagues on a variety of
diverse issues.


      Assistant economists’ starting salary in London is £26,840 with an extra £2,500 for
       those with a relevant masters qualification, and £1,200 for each year of relevant
       experience (prior to joining);
      Economic Adviser salaries start at £46,184 (promotion to this level is usually within
       3-4 years);
      30 days annual leave plus 10½ days public and privilege holidays;
      Flexible working hours.

Training & Development

      As with all AEs within the GES, you will receive up to 15 days training per year –
       activities and course are chosen in consultation with your development manager to
       fit your personal needs;
      Defra has a pooling arrangement for assistant economists posts with the
       Department for Transport and the Department for Communities and Local
       Government. This means that each year, you have a chance to move within the
       three departments, offering a much broader range of experience and development
      Defra economists hold frequent seminars to discuss their areas of work and you will
       benefit from being part of a close-knit AE community.
      Potential to bid for MSc/MA bursary support

How do you join?

Becoming an Assistant Economist

Successful applicants are members of both the Government Economic Service and the Civil
Service Fast Stream, and are assessed against competencies required by both. Forms of
assessment include presentations, interviews, and written exercises. There may also be


opportunities to apply to join as a provisional assistant economist with the expectation that
you will apply for a permanent placement and go through the Economist and Fast Stream
Assessment Centres within 12 months. For either route, at the application stage you will be
able to select Defra as one of three preferred Departments.

Other Opportunities

Sandwich Student Placements

This is a scheme designed for university students on sandwich courses. Defra has recently
offered 2-3 sandwich student placements a year with interviews held at the end of
November. Further details can be found in the Student Section of the GES website.


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