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Hong Kong Tackles Brain Drain: Civil Service Chief Urges Year-round Recruitment and Streamlined Hiring

Date Posted: 22 November, 2023

In a proactive move to address the persistent issue of a brain drain in Hong Kong’s civil service, Secretary for the Civil Service, Ingrid Yeung Ho Poi-yan, has called for increased year-round recruitment and simplified hiring procedures across various government departments. This comes in the wake of over 10,000 employees leaving their positions in the 2022-23 fiscal year, prompting concerns about the sustainability of the workforce.

According to a government document, approximately 5,800 civil servants retired, while nearly 4,000 resigned, resulting in a resignation rate of 2.2%. Although the numbers are significant, Yeung highlighted a positive trend, noting that the resignation rate is showing signs of easing and has not significantly impacted government operations.

Encouraging a Shift in Recruitment Practices:
Yeung urged more government departments, particularly those with long-term manpower needs, to adopt year-round recruitment strategies to attract and retain talent effectively. Currently, only 13 government roles, including positions in the police force, Department of Health dentists, clerical and secretarial officers, and veterinary technologists at the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, are open for year-round recruitment.

To bolster year-round recruitment efforts, Yeung proposed the hiring of retired officers on a short-term basis, tapping into their experience to aid in the recruitment process. She emphasized that her bureau has already mandated the streamlining of hiring procedures, with notable success in reducing the time required to hire clerical officers from 10 months to three to four months.

Addressing Vacancies and Future Strategies:
Lawmaker Dennis Leung Tsz-wing raised concerns about the significant number of unfilled positions and questioned whether the Civil Service Bureau had set specific goals for filling these vacancies. While Yeung acknowledged the increase in vacancies, she refrained from providing a specific time frame for their resolution.

Yeung noted that 40% of those who resigned in the past year did so during the probation period, lasting three years. She attributed this trend to the younger workforce’s desire for diverse work experiences and outlined the government’s commitment to implementing various training and exchange programs to retain talent.

Challenges and Overtime Issues:
Despite the positive outlook, concerns were raised about the government’s ability to attract young talent. Panel chairman Kwok Wai-keung highlighted a declining trend in the number of public servants aged 29 or under, constituting approximately 12.8% of the civil service workforce in 2022-23. Yeung explained that this trend is not unique to the public sector and is observed in private organizations as well, partly influenced by the increasing pursuit of postgraduate education by the younger generation.

Labour sector lawmaker Chau Siu-chung expressed frontline public servants’ concerns about increased workload and work pressure, leading to overtime without compensation. Yeung acknowledged the responsibility shouldered by public servants and emphasized ongoing recruitment efforts to address the issue, acknowledging that the current situation of unfilled posts is not ideal.

In conclusion, Hong Kong’s Civil Service is actively adapting its recruitment and retention strategies to navigate the challenges posed by a changing workforce landscape, aiming to attract, develop, and retain top talent while ensuring the efficiency of government operations.


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