Hong Kong raises civil service retirement age to 65

By on 02/07/2018 | Updated on 24/09/2020
Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor

The retirement age for civil servants in Hong Kong is to be raised by five years, the government’s Executive Council has confirmed.

Civilian grade civil servants who joined the government between 1 June 2000 and 31 May 2015 will be able to opt to retire at 65 instead of 60, while uniformed civil servants such as police and immigration services will be allowed to retire at 60, according to a document from the Executive Council.

The changes were first mooted in a consultation in February, which is part of a strategy by chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to boost the number of civil servants to tackle Hong Kong’s ageing population and shrinking workforce – which is projected to fall from around 3.68 million in 2021 to 3.5 million between 2031 and 2038.

Workers are to be given two years to decide whether to change to the new arrangement, after which the decision is irrevocable.

Positive response

The majority of nearly 500 consultation responses from staff representative bodies, civil servants and their managers supported the change in principle “in the light of the demographic challenges faced by the society and the aspirations of serving civil servants”, according to the document.

Some who joined before 1 January 2000 complained that it was unfair that they would not be eligible to choose to work longer. Some suggested that the date of birth of serving officers should be adopted for determining the eligibility for extension of service, rather than their date of appointment.

But the government argued that there were no population grounds to offer later retirement to these workers. The majority of them were due to retire in the next decade or so, before the labour force is projected to fall to its lowest level.

New wave of change

Using date of birth for determining eligibility would deviate from the established practice of applying new terms to civil servants based on their appointment dates, and could be challenged as age discrimination, it said.

The change is the second time in three years that the government has adjusted retirement rules – the higher retirement ages already apply to those who join the civil service from June 1, 2015.

The higher retirement age is expected to cost the government HK$5.8 billion (US$740m) in pension payments by 2057 if all civil servants who are eligible opt to take it up, according to the Executive Council.

About Catherine Early

Catherine is a journalist and editor specialising in government policy and regulation. She writes predominantly about environmental issues and has held permanent roles at the Environmentalist (now known as Transform), the ENDS Report, Planning magazine and Windpower Monthly, and has also written for the Guardian, the Ecologist and China Dialogue. She was a finalist in the Guardian’s International Development Journalism competition 2009, and was part of the team that won PPA Business Magazine of the Year 2011 for Windpower Monthly. She also won an outstanding content award at Haymarket Media Group’s employee awards for data-led stories in Planning magazine. She holds a 2:1 honours degree in English language and literature from Birmingham University.

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