Hong Kong 2003
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The Civil Service

The Civil Service employs about 4.7 per cent of Hong Kong's labour force. It provides staff for all government departments and other units of the Administration. At December 31, the total strength of the Civil Service was 164 700 (excluding about 1 500 ICAC and judicial officers).

Overall policy responsibility for the management of the Civil Service lies with the Civil Service Bureau of the Government Secretariat. It includes policies on matters such as appointments, pay and conditions of service, staff management, manpower planning, training and discipline. The bureau is also the focal point for consultation with major staff associations and its General Grades Office manages the 26 800 executive, clerical and secretarial staff. Management of the Civil Service is governed mainly by three important instruments: the Public Service (Administration) Order, the Public Service (Disciplinary) Regulation, and the Civil Service Regulation, all made with the authority of the Chief Executive.

The Public Service Commission is an independent statutory body set up in 1950 under the Public Service Commission Ordinance to advise the Chief Executive on appointment, promotion and disciplinary matters in the Civil Service. The Government is also advised on matters relating to pay and conditions of service by four independent bodies: the Standing Committee on Directorate Salaries and Conditions of Service (directorate officers excluding judicial officers and the disciplined services); the Standing Committee on Judicial Salaries and Conditions of Service (the judicial officers); the Standing Committee on Disciplined Services Salaries and Conditions of Service (the disciplined services); and the Standing Commission on Civil Service Salaries and Conditions of Service (all other civil servants).

In accordance with the Basic Law, Principal Officials must be Chinese citizens who are permanent residents of the HKSAR with no right of abode in any foreign country and have ordinarily resided in Hong Kong for a continuous period of not less than 15 years. It is also a Basic Law requirement that new recruits to the Civil Service on or after July 1, 1997 should normally be permanent residents of the HKSAR, save for certain exceptions, for example to fill professional and technical posts.

Subject to the above policy, appointment to the Civil Service is based on open and fair competition which aims to recruit the 'best person for the job'. Promotion is performance-based and is not a reward for long service. As the largest employer in Hong Kong, the Government takes the lead in employing people with a disability to help them integrate into the community and ensure that they are given equal opportunity in recruitment to the Civil Service.

The Government monitors closely the turnover in the Civil Service for manpower planning purposes. Overall wastage in the Civil Service in 2002-03 was 3.6 per cent. Following the introduction of the Voluntary Departure Scheme (VDS) and the first Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) in March and July 2000 respectively, the wastage rate had risen to 5.7 per cent in 2001-02. With the departure of participants in the above two schemes, the wastage rate began to level out at 3.6 per cent in 2002-03. The VDS was implemented to enable civil servants in designated grades in the Housing Department to leave the service voluntarily to facilitate a phased transfer of Housing Authority estate management and maintenance services to the private sector. The first VRS was launched to allow eligible civil servants in designated grades with identified or anticipated surplus staff to retire from the service voluntarily with retirement benefits and compensation. Given the importance of continuity at the management level, the Government has a well-established staff planning mechanism to review succession planning of senior staff and to identify and groom officers with potential for advancement to senior management, in order to develop a pool of talent for senior positions.

The Government values regular communication and consultation with staff. There are four consultative councils at the central level: Senior Civil Service Council, Model Scale 1 Staff Consultative Council, Disciplined Services Consultative Council and Police Force Council. More than 80 consultative committees operate at the departmental level. A Civil Service Newsletter is published regularly to provide an added link with serving and retired civil servants.

Staff commitment and contributions are recognised in various forms including appreciation letters, commendations and honours or awards. Long Service Travel Awards, Long and Meritorious Service Awards and retirement souvenirs are given to staff having long and meritorious service. An Outstanding Customer Service Award Scheme was launched in 2003 to recognise the efforts and achievement of bureaux and departments and their staff in providing quality customer service to the public and to further promote a customer-focused culture in the Civil Service.

Civil Service Reform

In March 1999, the Government released a Consultation Document on Civil Service Reform. The main objective was to put forward proposals to modernise the administration of the Civil Service so as to make it more flexible and prepare staff to face the changes and increasingly demanding challenges in the years ahead and meet the demands of society. As a result of feedback received during the consultation, the Government has drawn up more detailed proposals in the various policy areas for detailed discussion with the Staff Sides and department/grade management through working groups that have staff representatives.

Following are the highlights of reform initiatives in four main areas:

1. Entry and Exit

On June 1, 2000, the Government introduced a new entry system and terms of appointment for new recruits to the Civil Service to increase the flexibility of its appointment system.

In June 2003, the Government implemented a Civil Service Provident Fund Scheme to replace the pension schemes as the retirement benefits system for officers who are offered appointments to the Civil Service on or after June 1, 2000 under the new entry terms and when they subsequently progress onto permanent terms of appointment.

In 2003, the Government set the target to reduce the civil service establishment to around 160 000 by 2006-07. To help achieve this target, a general recruitment freeze was imposed with effect from April 1, 2003.

In July 2000, the Administration introduced a Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) to enable staff of 59 designated grades with an identified or anticipated staff surplus to retire from the service voluntarily with compensation and pension payments. About 9 800 applications were approved. In March 2003, the Administration introduced the second VRS to enable identified or potential surplus staff in specified ranks/streams of 229 designated grades to leave the service voluntarily so as to reduce the civil service establishment and bring about long-term savings to the Government. About 5 300 applications were approved.

The Administration has since September 2000 introduced a Management-Initiated Retirement Scheme to provide for the retirement of directorate civil servants on permanent and pensionable terms to facilitate improvement in the government organisation.

2. Pay

The current pay policy for the Civil Service is to offer sufficient remuneration to attract, retain, and motivate staff of a suitable calibre to provide the public with an effective and efficient service. Such remuneration should be regarded as fair by both civil servants and the public they serve. Within these parameters, broad comparability with the private sector is an important factor in setting civil service pay.

As part of ongoing efforts to modernise the management of the Civil Service and to address public comments on the existing civil service pay adjustment mechanism, the Government has embarked on an exercise to develop an improved pay adjustment mechanism for long-term adoption in the service. The objective of the exercise is to put in place an improved mechanism which reflects the civil service pay policy and upholds the principle of maintaining broad comparability between civil service pay and private sector pay. The exercise includes the conduct of a pay level survey, improvement to the methodology for the conduct of annual pay trend surveys and the development of an effective means for implementing both upward and downward pay adjustments.

In April 2003, the Civil Service Bureau established a steering committee and a consultative group to provide professional input and staff views to the exercise. In November, the Civil Service Bureau issued a progress report setting out the policy considerations as well as the timetable for taking forward the exercise. The aim is to complete the whole exercise, including the conduct of a pay level survey, in the second quarter of 2005.

3. Conduct and Discipline

In April 2000, the Government introduced measures to streamline the disciplinary procedures and set up an independent Secretariat on Civil Service Discipline to handle disciplinary cases in a prompt, impartial and equitable manner.

4. Training and Development

Training and development programmes are used extensively to support the implementation of the reform initiatives. The Government acquired funding of $50 million to introduce a Three-year Training and Development Programme from 2001-02 to 2003-04. The programme focuses on three main themes, namely, training for staff affected by the Voluntary Retirement exercise, training to equip staff with the requisite skills and knowledge to implement the Civil Service Reform initiatives and promoting a continuous learning culture in the Civil Service.

Since 2001-02, more than 2 600 seminars and courses on various subjects have been offered to about 72 000 staff. Most of them are junior staff. In support of the second VRS launched in March 2003, the Three-year Training and Development Programme will be extended to 2004-05 to provide training to staff affected by the scheme, thereby assisting them in adapting to the new working environment.

Civil Service Training and Development

The Government is committed to providing civil servants with training programmes that will equip them with the skills and knowledge necessary for providing quality service to the public. The Civil Service Training and Development Institute (CSTDI) is the Government's central training and development agency. The institute provides general training and advisory services to bureaux and departments, and it also promotes a culture of continuous learning in the Civil Service.

To encourage departments and grades to think and plan ahead so that their corporate goals can be more effectively supported by training and development activities, the institute has for some years been promoting the formulation of departmental training and development plans. By 2003, all departments and grades had drawn up their own detailed plans. In the coming years, the institute will continue to assist departments and grades in deriving full benefits from the annually rolled forward training and development planning process.

The CSTDI continued to accord priority to leadership development in 2003. A 'Directorate Leadership Scheme' to strengthen the leadership capacity of senior officers and a 'Leadership In Action' Programme designed to groom senior officers with high potential for further career development were launched. Also, a series of seminars was held jointly with three private sector organisations to facilitate the exchange of ideas and best practices in corporate leadership. A forum on 'Continuous Improvement Through People' was held for about 300 professional officers from different bureaux and departments to facilitate the sharing of experience in implementing continuous improvement and service enhancement initiatives.

Building on the cyber-learning infrastructure put in place since 2000, the institute has made sustained efforts to enrich the content and to upgrade the functions of the Government's e-learning portal, the Cyber Learning Centre Plus (CLC Plus). The portal provides a one-stop access to a wide spectrum of training and development information and learning resources for staff at different levels. The number of registered users grew to over 35 000 in 2003.

Continuous emphasis has been placed on national studies programmes, including staff exchange programmes with Mainland institutions. Besides the programmes offered by the Tsinghua University and the National School of Administration, the Peking University has been commissioned to organise programmes on national affairs for senior civil servants, starting from 2004. During the year, the CSTDI also arranged a series of seminars to help civil servants better understand the opportunities and challenges that the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement with the Mainland provides for Hong Kong. Updated and more comprehensive job-related reference materials were added to the CLC Plus to help keep civil servants abreast of latest developments in the Greater Pearl River Delta region. A variety of courses and promotional activities were organised on a continuing basis to enhance civil servants' knowledge of the Basic Law.

During the year, the Administration completed a review of the CSTDI's operations with a view to rationalising service delivery. Starting from April 2004, the institute will be subsumed under the Civil Service Bureau, in the interests of achieving greater efficiency and economy in operation. The institute will continue to focus on its core business of delivering cost-effective training and development and consulting services to its clients.

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