Very often you need to be able to discuss social issues and what may need to be done about them. In this case it helps to have plenty of government vocabulary to describe what governments do – or don’t do!
A quick note on spelling
GOVERNMENT is one of the most commonly misspelled words in English – don’t forget that N.
Forms of government
It helps to distinguish between different types of government – not all government is equal. If you do this, you will find that you have more to say by comparing what different type of government can do. This is a great example of how words and ideas connect. If you choose good words then you get better ideas!
central government: this is the national government of a country
local government: this is the regional form of government that typically takes care of more local issues
the authorities: this is a general term for all forms of government – note that we use it in the plural
regulatory bodies: these are bodies which are sometimes set up by the government and sometimes self-regulatory and typically they control one specific area such as advertising. Legislation is not always the answer.
enforcement agencies: these are bodies that have direct control of how laws are being obeyed. This is something central government does not always do itself. An example of an enforcement agency is the body that monitors pollution in rivers.
international organisations: don’t forget these either. many problems need global solutions and demand international cooperation from bodies like the UN
NGOs: these are the opposite of governments! NGO stands for Non Governmental Organisation. Almost always their work is charitable and very often in aid and development. You are most likely to refer to them when countries help each other.
quangos: if you must know these are quasi autonomous non governmental organisations. They are normally set up by central government to look after one issue.
What central governments do
This does depend slightly what country you live in – different countries have different legal and political systems. Something that all countries have though is a central government – sometimes a parliament, sometimes a senate and sometimes a congress and – for some lucky countries – all three! Here is what they tend to do
pass/introduce legislation: The time has come when the government needs to introduce new legislation to protect the privacy of citizens.
bring in/enact laws: One possible solution is for the government to bring in laws that prohibit the sale of tobacco to anyone under 21.
adopt policies: One possibility is for the government to adopt policies that encourage mothers to return to work.
take measures/action: The situation is now so severe that the government must take measures to police the internet.
raise (and lower) taxes: One way to limit air pollution from aircraft would be for the government to raise airport tax.
have/provide a budget/funding: It is the responsibility of the government to provide more funding for research into renewable energy.
ban/prohibit: Most people would agree that there should be a ban on the sale of automatic weapons.
People within a government
departments: The Health Department should ensure that doctors are not forced to work a 60-hour week.
political parties; This is one issue where all political parties should work together to provide a solution.
politicians: If enough people protested then politicians would have to listen and take action.
What local governments do
This is one area that will vary greatly from country to country. Below you will find some examples of the type of issues that local governments sometimes are responsible for and some of their powers:
impose fines: Local councils should ensure that householders are fined if they they do not recycle their waste properly.
provide resources/services: Local government needs to provide adequate resources for schools so that they can cope with the influx of children who speak English as a second language.
maintain: If local governments maintained the roads in a better condition, then there would be fewer problems with traffic congestion.
fund: Councils could fund local community projects where residents work as volunteers in schools and hospitals.
hire: It would certainly help if local councils hired more staff.
Thinking long-term and short short-term
Another concept to think about when talking about government action is whether it is short-term or long-term.
temporary: One idea is that the government could introduce a temporary restriction on immigration to determine what effect it would have on employment rates.
long-term The government needs to consider the long-term effect of a poorly trained workforce.
immediate Governments of wealthier countries should provide financial assistance to people in disaster zones to help with their immediate needs.
a stopgap measure While this may only be a stopgap measure, it would help if governments sent financial aid to disaster areas.
How people can influence governments
Another way to approach question where you need to talk about governments is to think about what the people can do to have an effect on their decisions.
lobby politicians: Individuals could help here by lobbying their elected representatives and MPs to try and force them to introduce legislation.
engage in peaceful protests/demonstrations It is possible that the government might be swayed by peaceful demonstrations asking for more action on the environment.
Some links with more information
BBC schools: this is basic but it covers all the important points and has useful language
Queensland Gov: an Australian variantMore vocabulary and ideas for IELTS