What is the Main Difference Between a Federal Form of Government and a Unitary One? Explain with an Example

By Ritika Pant|Updated : December 30th, 2022

The Difference Between a Federal Form of Government and a Unitary One is that there is no hierarchy of sovereign power in a unitary government, but the federal government has fixed sovereign hierarchy levels. The difference is based on how power is shared in these systems. However, in a federal system, the central government has the power to write the decisions of the state.

Difference Between a Federal Form of Government and a Unitary One

The major Difference Between a Federal Form of Government and a Unitary One is listed in the table given below:

Unitary Government

Federal Government

No hierarchy of power exists.

Power is shared between central and shared governments.

State governments do not have the authority to pass separate laws.

The central government holds the power to pass laws for all states.

One central system of governance holds all power.

Shared powers at national and state levels.

The source of power is a single central government responsible for passing the country's laws and looking after law and order in the country.

There are different levels of power at the state and central levels.

Example: China, UK, Sri Lanka.

Example: India, Switzerland, Canada.

Types of Federal Government

Federalism in India refers to a Government system consisting of two levels: a central level and a regional level. There are two categories of Federal Government:

  • Coming Together Federations – Examples are Switzerland, the United States of America (USA), and Australia.
  • Holding Together Federations – Examples are India, Spain, and Belgium.

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FAQs on Difference Between a Federal Government and a Unitary One

  • The Main Difference Between a Federal Form of Government and a Unitary One is how power is distributed in the government’s hierarchy in these respective systems. In a unitary government, there is one central power source; in the federal government, power is distributed on many levels.

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  • Unitary and federal governments operate differently. In countries like China and the United Kingdom, where there is a unitary government, the centre holds power. In countries like India, Pakistan, Brazil, Canada etc., a federal government distributes power on several levels.

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