Hong Kong to recruit over 5,000 civil servants

By on 30/10/2017
Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has pledged to increase the number of civil servants in the territory by three per cent during the next financial year.

More than 5,000 additional staff are due to be recruited under the plan, which is one of several measures designed to reduce workload pressure and boost efficiency in the civil service. Lam announced the changes earlier this month, in her first policy address since she took office on 1 July.

Lam also said that serving civil servants who joined between June 2000 and May 2015 inclusive will be allowed to voluntarily postpone their retirement age to 65; they currently have to retire at 60. Officials who joined after May 2015 are already subject to a higher retirement age.

A review of Chinese language entry requirements will be carried out to boost access to the civil service for people from ethnic minorities, and the number of internship places for students with disabilities will be increased from 50 to 100 per year.

Changes will also be made to the Central Policy Unit and to the Efficiency Unit, which works with government departments and agencies to improve service delivery through better use of innovation and technology.

“We will proceed to ask the heads of department to streamline administration, foster innovation and collaboration, and leverage technology,” said Lam.

“We will revamp the Central Policy Unit into the Policy Innovation and Co-ordination Unit, and place the Efficiency Unit under the Innovation and Technology Bureau to enhance inter- departmental collaboration and assist departments in technology application.”

The free-standing Efficiency Unit currently reports to the chief secretary for administration.

Lam said the Civil Service Bureau has already began to plan a new civil service academy  that she announced in August following a visit to Singapore’s Civil Service College. The bureau is currently looking for a site for the training centre.

The new college aims to enhance training for civil servants in leadership, interaction and communication with the public, innovation and the use of technology, Lam said at a press conference after the policy address, as reported by Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK).

She said the college will emphasise “deepening civil servants’ understanding of our country’s development and the relationship between the Central Authorities and the HKSAR”, but denied that it will be used to “brainwash” staff.

“They are adults, how can we brainwash them?” she said, RTHK reported. “I don’t think it’s possible for us to brainwash civil servants through this civil service academy.

“We have to grasp the opportunities brought about by the nation’s development, for example the Belt and Road initiative, Bay Area development and IT development. If civil servants don’t have a deeper understanding of these issues, their daily work would be affected.

“Today, we send civil servants to the national training institutions to learn. Once we have this civil service college, they can be trained readily in Hong Kong. We can invite mainland experts to train them.”

Lam was referring to the Chinese central government’s drive to boost land and maritime transport and communications links between China and Europe, and its development plans for the Pearl River Delta.

The three per cent expansion plan is the greatest year-on-year increase in head count in two decades, according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP). Growth has been held at or below 1.5 per cent for the past 10 years, following annual cuts from 1997-2005.

In 2000, the Hong Kong civil service had around 198,000 employees. By the end of June, it had 175,653 civil servants in post, with the number due to rise to 179,000 by March 2018 under a two per cent increase announced last year.

But union leaders argued that the three per cent increase is not enough.

Leung Chau-ting, chief executive officer of the Hong Kong Federation of Civil Service Unions, said: “Five thousand-plus may sound a big number for the general public, but it is far from enough to make up for the loss of head count. And bear in mind, Carrie Lam has put forward 251 new initiatives in her policy address this year alone.”

About Liz Heron

Liz Heron is a journalist based in London, who specialises in international news. She worked on daily newspapers for 16 years, reporting extensively on both general news and education. She was Education Editor of the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong and has contributed to a wide range of British media including The Independent, The Guardian and the BBC.

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