JavaScript is disabled
Our website requires JavaScript to function properly. For a better experience, please enable JavaScript in your browser settings before proceeding.
A cabinet is a body of high-ranking state officials, typically consisting of the top leaders of the executive branch. They are usually called ministers, but in some jurisdictions are sometimes called secretaries.
The functions of a cabinet are varied: in some countries it is a collegial decision-making body with collective responsibility, while in others it may function either as a purely advisory body or an assisting institution to a decision making head of state or head of government. In some countries, the cabinet is called "Council of Ministers" or "Government Council" or lesser known names such as "Federal Council" (in Switzerland), "Inner Council" or "High Council". These countries may differ in the way that the cabinet is used or established.
In some countries, particularly those that use a parliamentary system (e.g., the UK), the Cabinet collectively decides the government's direction, especially in regard to legislation passed by the parliament. In countries with a presidential system, such as the United States, the Cabinet does not function as a collective legislative influence; rather, their primary role is as an official advisory council to the head of government. In this way, the President gets opinions and advice in upcoming decisions.
Legally, under both types of systems, the Westminster system and the presidential system, the Cabinet "advises" the Head of State: the difference is that, in a parliamentary system, the monarch, viceroy or ceremonial president will almost always follow this advice, whereas in a presidential system, a president who is also head of government and political leader may depart from the Cabinet's advice if he does not agree with it.
In parliamentary democracies which do not have the Westminster system, very often the Cabinet does not "advise" the Head of State as he (or she) plays only a ceremonial role. Instead, it is usually the Head of Government who holds all means of power in his hands (e.g. in Germany, Sweden, Spain, etc.) and the Cabinet reports to him (or her).
The second role of cabinet officials is to administer executive branch government agencies or departments (in the United States, these are the federal executive departments)
In many parliamentary democracies, including those that use the Westminster system, Cabinet ministers are usually (or mandatory) appointed from among sitting members of the legislature and either remain members of the legislature while serving in the cabinet (e.g. in the United Kingdom), or have to give up their seat in parliament, which is especially the case in countries with a strict separation between the executive and legislative branches of government (e.g. Luxembourg, Switzerland, Belgium etc.).
The latter is usually also the case in countries with a presidential system: Cabinet members cannot be sitting legislators, and legislators who are offered appointments must resign if they wish to accept.

In most governments, members of the Cabinet are given the title of minister, and each holds a different portfolio of government duties ("Minister for the Environment," etc.).
In a few governments, as in the case of Mexico, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, and United States, the title of secretary is also used for some Cabinet members ("Secretary of Education," or "Secretary of State" in the UK). In many countries (e.g. Germany, Luxembourg, France, etc.), a Secretary (of State) is a cabinet member with an inferior rank to a minister.
In some countries (e.g. the US) attorneys general also sit in the cabinet, while in many others this is strictly prohibited as the attorneys general are considered to be part of the judicial branch of government. The day-to-day role of most cabinet members is to serve as the chief of one segment of the executive branch of the national government (or regional government in federal systems) and its respective bureaucracy to whom all other subordinate public servants and employees in that ministry or department have to report.
The size of cabinets varies, although most contain around ten to twenty ministers. Researchers have found an inverse correlation between a country's level of development and cabinet size: on average, the more developed a country is, the smaller is its cabinet.

View More On
Back Top