Speech at Panel on Public Service

2023-2024 civil service pay adjustment

Civil service pay mechanism

Members noted that in the past years, the “bring-up” arrangement was invoked whenever the net PTI for the lower salary band was below that for the middle salary band. Question was raised as to whether the “bring-up” arrangement would become an established mechanism.

The Administration advised that the “bring-up” arrangement was not made a policy although the staff side had requested the Administration to establish it as an integral part of the pay adjustment mechanism. The determination of the annual civil service pay adjustment remained a prerogative of the CE-in-Council upon consideration of the six factors. Mandatory application of the “bring-up” arrangement would inevitably constraint the CE-in-Council’s flexibility in achieving the best balance in the annual exercise.

Some members expressed concern that due to the long time required for the annual PTS, civil service pay had to be adjusted with retrospective effect every year. They enquired whether the civil service pay adjustment mechanism could be improved by for example, commencing PTS two months earlier, with a view to shortening the time for the whole process.

The Administration advised that the annual civil service pay adjustment exercise was conducted as soon as practicable every year. As PTS reflected the pay trend in the private sector over the 12-month period from 2 April in the previous year to 1 April of the current year, surveyed companies were requested to return the questionnaires in early May and the tentative PTS results were released in mid-May. After that, several follow-ups had to be taken by the Administration, including having two-rounds of consultation with the staff side, seeking the CE-in-Council’s advice on pay offer and decision on the pay adjustment, consulting the Panel, and seeking approval of the Finance Committee for approval.

Maintaining civil service morale and retaining talent

The proposed pay increase for civil servants in the upper salary band (2.87%) was notably lower than that for the middle and lower salary bands (4.65%). Some members were worried that the proposed pay increase might reduce the willingness of senior civil servants to stay in the civil service. Noting that the turnover rate of the civil service stood high these two years, some members enquired whether most of the resignees were senior civil servants.

The Administration advised that about 60% of the civil servants who left the Government in the year of 2021-2022 were retirees. Amongst the more than 3 700 civil servants who resigned in that year, around 40% of them resigned during the probationary period. Departments could further employ experienced civil servants who had reached retirement age for a certain period to meet manpower needs. Meanwhile, CSB would discuss with individual departments the succession situation on an annual basis and formulate corresponding measures.

IV. Pilot Scheme on Dental Services (Dental Scaling) for civil service eligible persons

Members enquired whether the Administration had examined the demand of CSEPs for various dental services before identifying dental scaling service as the trial area. Information was sought on the number of CSEPs waiting for dental scaling as a percentage of the total number of CSEPs waiting for dental services. The Administration advised that as most of the accumulated outstanding cases were related to CSEPs waiting for regular dental check-ups including scaling, dental scaling service was identified as the trial area where eligible CSEPs would be arranged to receive dental scaling services from private dental clinics (“PDCs”) under the Pilot Scheme.

Given the overall shortage of dentists, some members were worried that DOs in the Government might be poached by PDOs under the Pilot Scheme resulting that most of the dental services for CSEPs would have to be provided by PDOs in the long run. They considered that the Administration should address the shortage of dentists in the public sector.

The Administration advised that DH was facing a serious shortage of DOs and had been exploring ways to improve the manpower supply of dentists in the public sector. The amendment of Dentists Registration Ordinance (Cap. 156) was underway which proposed to introduce limited registration for non-locally trained dentists, as well as a mandatory one-year internship/period of assessment for local dental graduates and qualified non-locally trained dentists who passed the licensing examination to undertake clinical practice in the public sector so as to gain more clinical experience and exposure in real-life setting prior to full registration. In fact, the Administration had increased the number of UGC-funded first-year-first-degree training places in dentistry from 80 to 90 per year in the 2022-2023 to 2024-2025 triennium. It was expected that around 400 dental graduates would become registered dentists in the coming five years.