A man takes a picture with his phone in Tamar park in the Admiralty district of Hong Kong on Jan 3, 2017. (ISAAC LAWRENCE / AFP)
Hong Kong’s civil servants could be set for their smallest salary raise in five years as the government’s annual pay trend survey revealed on Thursday that the recommended increase for next year would range from 1.38 percent to 2.44 percent.
The Pay Trend Survey Committee (PTSC) suggested civil servants of upper, middle and lower salary ranks would enjoy a 1.38 percent, 2.44 percent and 1.82 percent pay rise respectively in the coming year.
The civil service last year suffered its biggest staff exodus in 15 years.
Wilfred Wong Kam-pui, chairman of the PTSC, said the results were “very professional” as well as “fair and justified”. The PTSC calculated the figure after studying 2016-17 salary levels of 156,000 employees from 111 private companies.
Wong emphasized that the suggested salary increase was not final and the committee would hold a re-examination meeting on May 25 to decide the final figure the committee would recommend to the government.
The government would take the recommendation into consideration along with Hong Kong’s economic conditions, cost of living, government finances, civil servants’ morale and employees’ pay claims before tabling a proposal to the Legislative Council’s Finance Committee.
For last year the survey suggested higher earners in the civil service receive a 4.19 percent pay rise while middle rank enjoyed 4.68 percent and lower rank 3.08 percent.
LegCo approved the increase for the upper and middle ranks while offering the lower band a 4.68 percent raise.
The city’s civil service unions voiced strong disappointment over the results of the study, saying the amounts will harm morale.
Representative of the staff side of the Senior Civil Service Council Steven Wong Hung-lok described the suggested pay rise as “disappointing”, adding staff side representatives expected the increase would reach 3 percent or more.
The small pay rise would harm current civil servants’ morale and hinder new employment.
Currently, the city has about 170,000 civil servants. In the 2015-16 financial year, 1,056 civil servants resigned – the highest number in the past 15 years, Secretary for the Civil Service Clement Cheung Wan-ching told legislators on Monday.
Another staff side representative Li Kwai-yin, who is also the vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Chinese Civil Servants’ Association, said the increase should beat or at least match inflation.
Hong Kong’s average inflation rate stood at 2.3 percent last year, according to the Census and Statistics Department.
The city’s civil servants, who fall into three salary bands – upper, middle and lower – receive annual pay increments until their salary reaches the ceiling of their posts.
Besides the 1,056 resigned civil servants, about 6,000 senior government employees retired in 2015-16. More junior civil servants are hired as predecessors are promoted to replace retired civil servants.
As the junior civil servants’ salaries have not reached the ceiling, greater number of junior servants in the three bands means more increments needed to pay, boosting up the increment rate.