Nip in hiring u-turn amid record civil service resignations

Local | 18 May 2021

Michael Shum

About 14,000 civil servants will be hired after more than 1,800 resigned this year - a 23-year high.

However, Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip Tak-kuen said the resignations amount to only a small proportion of the public workforce.

In a Legislative Council's public service panel meeting yesterday, he said the search for around 14,000 more would continue although it was announced in last year's policy address that there would be a freeze on headcount to conserve resources.

He said the recruitment is to fill vacancies created by those who have left.

The government had tried to put a halt to recruitment in previous years, but this had a negative impact on departmental developments and successions, and as a result, they hope to continue hiring new people to fill the vacancies, he said.

This came after Nip told lawmakers that 1,863 civil servants resigned last year, up almost 20 percent over 1,571 in 2019.

More than half of them left before passing their probation. They were among 8,500 who left the government last year, while about 72 percent retired. The resignation rate and number are the highest since 1998, government documents showed.

Nip said although the number of resignations had "slightly increased," it only comprised about 1 percent of the 178,000-strong civil service workforce.

"Civil servants resigned for all sorts of reasons, including personal development, family, health or being hired in the private market, etc, but the resignation rate still remains low," Nip said.

He also said that the increase in resignations was due to a change in employment culture, as younger generations rarely work for the same employer all their lives, rather than the cancellation of pensions for new recruits joining after 2000.

The chief executive of the Federation of Civil Service Unions, Leung Chau-ting, said the resignations were not surprising, as those in public service might have to bear criminal liability for their remarks after making a declaration to pledge allegiance to the SAR and uphold the Basic Law.

Leung said civil servants' salaries are similar to those in the private market, and they will no longer receive a pension after their retirement.

"That means they are the same as normal workers in the SAR, but they have to bear the uncertainties after making the declaration. It is natural that the government is not able to retain them," he said.

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