Ministry (government department)

Ministry (government department)

A ministry is a specialized organization responsible for a sector of government public administration, sometimes led by a minister or a senior public servant, that can have responsibility for one or more departments, agencies, bureaus, commissions or other smaller executive, advisory, managerial or administrative organisations.

Ministries are usually subordinate to the cabinet, and prime minister, president or chancellor. A government will usually have numerous ministries, each with a specialised field of providing public service. National ministries vary greatly between countries, but some common ones include Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Finance, and Ministry of Health.

In the 20th century, Western countries (including monarchies such as Belgium and the United Kingdom) have trended away from the usage of the designation "ministry", preferring to replace such with words such as department, agency, bureau or secretariat.


  • Examples 1
    • Canada 1.1
    • India 1.2
    • New Zealand 1.3
    • United Kingdom 1.4
    • Other countries 1.5
  • In popular culture 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4



In Canada, five of the ten provincial governments use the term "ministry" to describe their departments (namely Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Alberta) but the other five, as well as the federal government, use the terms "department" or "agency". Despite the difference in nomenclature, both the provincial and federal governments use the term "minister" to describe the head of a ministry or department. The specific tasks assigned to a minister is referred to as his or her "portfolio".


In India the government departments take the practical actions which are debated by MLAs in the legislative assembly and by the MPs in the parliament. Some of the common government departments are the health department education department etc.

New Zealand

New Zealand's state agencies include a large number of ministries and a smaller number of departments. Increasingly, state sector agencies are styled neither as ministries nor as departments. All New Zealand agencies are under the direction of one or more ministers or associate ministers, whether they are styled "ministries" or not, though each body also has an apolitical chief executive. In ministries and departments, these chief executives often have the title of Secretary.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, all government organizations that consist of civil servants, and which may or may not be headed by a government minister or secretary of state, are considered as departments. The term "ministry" has been retained for the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Justice.

Other countries

Some countries, such as Australia, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, the Philippines and the United States, do not use the term "ministry" for their sectors of government public administration, and instead call them "departments". In Hong Kong, the term "bureau" is used, and departments are subordinate to bureau x, while in Mexico, ministries are referred to as secretariats. The government departments of the Soviet Union before 1946 were named "People's Commissariats". In the European Union, departments are termed Directorate(s)-General with the civil servant in charge called a Director-General (in the European Commission, the political head of the department is one of the European Commissioners).

In popular culture

The term "ministry" has also been widely used in satire and parody to describe fictional departments.

See also