Unitary System of Government | Features and Reasons for its Adoption

A unitary system of government is a type of political structure where the power and authority are concentrated at the national level.


In this post, we shall look into the meaning of unitary system of government and its features. At the end of this lesson, students should be able to:

  • define unitary system of government;
  • mention five features of unitary system of government; and
  • explain at least five reasons for its adoption.

Unitary System of Government

A unitary system of government is a type of political structure where the power and authority are concentrated at the national or central government level. In this system, the central government holds significant control over regional or local governments, and it can create or abolish them at will.


Local governments derive their powers and functions from the central government, and they operate as administrative units carrying out the policies set by the national government.

Examples of countries practising the unitary system of government are France, Japan, United Kingdom, Italy, and the People’s Republic of China,

Features of a Unitary System of Government

  1. Centralized Authority: The central government possesses the highest authority and power, making decisions on behalf of the entire nation.
  2. Single Sovereign Entity: The state is considered as one indivisible sovereign entity, and any powers delegated to local governments can be withdrawn by the central government.
  3. Local Governments as Administrative Units: Local governments exist as administrative extensions of the central government rather than independent entities with their own separate powers.
  4. Homogeneity: Unitary states often have a relatively homogeneous population with common cultural, historical, and political experiences.
  5. Absence of Ethnic Inequalities: In unitary states, there is a lack of significant ethnic or regional disparities, promoting a sense of national unity.
  6. Limited Skilled Personnel and Economic Resources: Unitary systems are more suitable for smaller countries with limited skilled personnel and economic resources.
  7. Preservation of National Unity and Identity: The unitary system aids in preserving the national identity and unity of the state by emphasizing a centralized government.
  8. Simplicity and Efficiency: Unitary systems are straightforward to operate and are cost-effective compared to more decentralized forms of government.
  9. Quick Decision-Making: With centralized decision-making, unitary systems can respond swiftly to national issues and crises.
See also  Functions of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU)
Image Credit: Marco Oriolesi on Unsplash.

Reasons for Adoption of Unitary System of Government

  1. Small Territory and Population: Countries with limited geographical area and smaller populations find it more practical to have a unitary system, which ensures efficient governance.
  2. Homogeneity and Ethnic Harmony: Unitary systems are favoured in countries with a relatively homogeneous population and where ethnic inequalities are minimal.
  3. Limited Skilled Personnel and Resources: In nations with limited resources and skilled personnel, a unitary system allows for the efficient allocation of resources.
  4. Common Political Culture and History: Countries with shared political culture and historical experiences may opt for a unitary system to promote national cohesion.
  5. Preservation of National Unity: A unitary system helps preserve the national identity and unity of the country, especially in regions with a strong sense of national pride.
  6. Simplicity and Cost-Effectiveness: For countries seeking a simple and cost-effective system of governance, a unitary system offers streamlined decision-making and administration.
  7. Quick Decision-Making: The centralized nature of unitary systems facilitates faster decision-making, particularly in times of emergencies or crises.


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