Ditching the ‘iron rice bowl’: alarm at rise in young workers quitting Hong Kong civil service

April 14, 20169:51 am368 views

Over half of the 900 civil servants who resigned in the last financial year had not completed their probation, according to government statistics, and almost one-third of them had taken jobs in the private sector.

The revelation has raised questions over whether working in the public sector is still an attractive career route, with commentators pointing to an increased workload, lack of a pension scheme and an increasingly bitter political environment.

According to papers submitted to the Legislative Council’s public service panel, the resignation rate for civil servants has risen steadily from 0.4 per cent in the 2010-11 fiscal year to 0.55 per cent last year.

But what surprised many was that over half of the 900 who resigned last year quit during their three-year probationary period.

Of the 319 who responded to the exit survey, 28 per cent of them said they left to take up a job in the private sector, 18 per cent cited family and marriage reasons, and 14 per cent decided to pursue further studies.

Around a fifth of those resigning were from the police, while 7.2 per cent worked in the Department of Health.

Looking at civil service staff wastage as a whole, which includes retirements and dismissals, the figure last year stood at 7,300.

Among the departments with a staff wastage rate higher than the 4.5 per cent average were the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, Marine Department and Water Supplies Department.

Earlier this year, a survey by the Standing Commission on Civil Service Salaries and Conditions of Service found that new government hires with university degrees were earning on average 15 per cent more than those in the private sector, though the discrepancy would eventually be levelled out.

Human resources expert Alex Liu Wai-keung said the resignation rate of civil servants was still relatively low, but he noted some young people had decided to ditch the security offered by their “iron rice bowl” because of the job nature and culture.

“They found out working in the government was not how they had imagined,” he said.

Liu said non-governmental organisations and social enterprises were looking for candidates with governmental backgrounds, but those who merely had two or three years of experience might not necessarily enjoy an edge in the business sector.

New People’s Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said the expansion of the Principal Officials Accountability System by chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen in 2008, which had allowed less experienced people to take up senior posts in the government, could have motivated some to leave the public sector.

“Some undersecretaries now really have no skills,” said Ip, a former security chief. “Many senior servants are frustrated in their heart to be supervised by … them.”

Marathon Legco filibusters and stronger political pressures had also affected civil service morale and job satisfaction, she said.

Leung Chau-ting, chief executive of the Federation of Civil Service Unions, said the increased workload and pressure had driven workers away.

A spokesperson for the Civil Service Bureau said various commendation schemes were put forward to maintain an environment in which civil servants were motivated to deliver quality service.

news source: scmp.com

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