SCMP Saturday, August 25, 2001

More cuts tipped for the civil service


A second round of voluntary redundancies may be offered to civil servants in another sign of the slowing economy.
But Secretary for Civil Service Joseph Wong Wing-ping said a review would be conducted before any decision was made.
About 9,300 civil servants have been given approval to leave under a voluntary retirement scheme introduced last year.
The plan aimed to cut workers from 59 civil service grades considered obsolete or over-staffed. So far, 4,000 have left and 3,000 are due to leave by the end of the year.
"We may review the voluntary retirement scheme, including the impact on service delivered, next year," Mr Wong said. "We will then determine if there is the need to launch another round of voluntary retirement."
Most of the job cuts have come from the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department. The retirement scheme has cost $2.78 billion.
Mr Wong said the target was to cut the civil service to 181,000 by the end of March 2003, as set out in the March Budget.
The staff reductions will be made through voluntary retirements, scrapping vacancies under the Enhanced Productivity Programme and cutting 3,000 Housing Department staff under a corporatisation plan for its maintenance department.
Mr Wong also said they were considering ways to shorten the time it took to recruit civil servants. The process now takes six to 12 months.
He said one option was to allow results from the civil service recruitment test, possibly conducted twice a year, to remain valid for three years.
Mr Wong hoped a new system could be implemented by next year and the Government may charge fees for the test.
"We don't need to conduct the test every time after a recruitment is launched. We could quickly arrange the interviews instead and shorten the time taken," he said. "This could help us compete with the private sector in recruitment."
Mr Wong said the private sector may use the test as a benchmark to recruit staff.
Another option was to delay integrity checks until after a job candidate was employed.
Mr Wong said the Civil Service Bureau would next month begin recruiting 10 senior administrative officers to help tap private-sector experience.
The candidates must have university qualifications and at least seven years' work experience. The monthly starting salary would be about $80,000, with a $25,000 housing allowance.