Hong Kong Civil Service
The Hong Kong Civil Service is managed by 12 policy bureaux in the Government Secretariat, and 67 departments and agencies, mostly staffed by civil servants. The Secretary for the Civil Service
Secretary for the Civil Service
The Secretary for the Civil Service is the head of the Civil Service Bureau in Hong Kong. Unlike other secretaries for bureaux, the Secretary for the Civil Service is filled by an administrative officer from the civil service, who may choose to return to the civil service when his term expires...

 (SCS) is one of the Principal Officials appointed under the Accountability System
Principal Officials Accountability System
Principal Officials Accountability System , commonly referred to as the Ministerial system, sometimes the Accountability system, was introduced in Hong Kong by Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa in July 2002...

 and a Member of the Executive Council
Executive Council of Hong Kong
The Executive Council of Hong Kong is a core policy-making organ in the executive branch of the government of Hong Kong.. The Chief Executive of Hong Kong serves as its President.The Executive Council normally meets once a week...

. He heads the Civil Service Bureau
Civil Service Bureau
The Civil Service Bureau of Hong Kong is responsible for the formulation and implementation of policies on the management of the Hong Kong Civil Service. The primary role of the civil service is to serve the community....

 (CSB) of the Government Secretariat and is responsible to the Chief Executive
Chief Executive of Hong Kong
The Chief Executive of Hong Kong is the President of the Executive Council of Hong Kong and head of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. The position was created to replace the Governor of Hong Kong, who was the head of the Hong Kong government during British rule...

 (CE) for civil service policies as well as the overall management and development of the civil service. His primary role is to ensure that the civil service
Civil service
The term civil service has two distinct meanings:* A branch of governmental service in which individuals are employed on the basis of professional merit as proven by competitive examinations....

 serves the best interests of the community and delivers various services in a trustworthy, efficient and cost effective manner. The CSB assumes overall policy responsibility for the management of the civil service, including such matters as appointment, pay and conditions of service, staff management, manpower planning, training, and discipline.


The following are the core values of the civil service, which all civil servants are expected to share and uphold:
  • commitment to the rule of law
    Rule of law
    The rule of law, sometimes called supremacy of law, is a legal maxim that says that governmental decisions should be made by applying known principles or laws with minimal discretion in their application...

  • honesty
    Honesty refers to a facet of moral character and denotes positive, virtuous attributes such as integrity, truthfulness, and straightforwardness along with the absence of lying, cheating, or theft....

     and integrity
    Integrity is a concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes. In ethics, integrity is regarded as the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one's actions...

  • accountability for decisions and actions;
  • political neutrality
    Neutral country
    A neutral power in a particular war is a sovereign state which declares itself to be neutral towards the belligerents. A non-belligerent state does not need to be neutral. The rights and duties of a neutral power are defined in Sections 5 and 13 of the Hague Convention of 1907...

  • impartiality in the execution of public functions; and
  • dedication, professionalism and diligence in serving the community
    The term community has two distinct meanings:*a group of interacting people, possibly living in close proximity, and often refers to a group that shares some common values, and is attributed with social cohesion within a shared geographical location, generally in social units larger than a household...


The Hong Kong civil service provides a wide range of services, which in many countries are divided among various public authorities, e.g. public works and utilities cleansing and public health, education, fire services and the police force. Hong Kong civil servants therefore do a wide variety of jobs. As of September 30, 2004, the civil service employed about 160,100 people (excluding about 1 500 ICAC
ICAC may refer to:*Independent Commission Against Corruption**Independent Commission Against Corruption **Independent Commission Against Corruption *Indiana Collegiate Athletic Conference...

 officers and judicial officers) or about five per cent of Hong Kong's labour force. About 1,200 of them are directorate officers. There are about 400 grades or job categories in the administrative, professional, technical and manual fields, with some 1,100 ranks or job levels. Over 99 per cent of the service are local officers and there are about two men to every woman employed. The size of the civil service is about 15 per cent down from that in early 2000. To help reduce the Government's operating expenditure, the CE has announced in the 2003 Policy Address to further reduce the civil service establishment to around 160,000 by 2006/07. The civil service is a unified service in the sense that all its employees are subject to common appointment procedures and similar disciplinary codes.


Appointments to the civil service are based on open and fair competition. Candidates have to go through competitive appointment processes and are appointed only if they possess the qualifications and capabilities required for the job. Vacancies can be filled by promotion from within the service. In the case of basic ranks or where promotion is not possible or where there is a special need, vacancies are filled by open recruitment. To achieve the target of reducing the civil service establishment, the Government implemented a general recruitment freeze to the civil service with effect from April 1, 2003, with exemption granted only on very exceptional circumstances. Entry requirements for civil service posts in general are set on the basis of academic or professional qualifications obtainable from local institutions or professional bodies (or equivalent), technical skills, work experience, language proficiency
Language proficiency
Language proficiency or linguistic proficiency is the ability of an individual to speak or perform in an acquired language. As theories vary among pedagogues as to what constitutes proficiency, there is little consistency as to how different organizations classify it...

 and other qualities and attributes as required. To achieve the aim of a civil service which is biliterate (Chinese and English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

) and trilingual (generally conversant in spoken Cantonese, English and Mandarin
Standard Mandarin
Standard Chinese or Modern Standard Chinese, also known as Mandarin or Putonghua, is the official language of the People's Republic of China and Republic of China , and is one of the four official languages of Singapore....

), language proficiency in Chinese and English is also required. From January 2003 onwards, for civil service posts requiring degree or professional qualifications, applicants should pass the two language papers (Use of Chinese and Use of English) in the Common Recruitment Examination before job application. For civil service posts with general academic qualifications set below degree level, applicants should attain at least Grade E in Chinese Language
Chinese language
The Chinese language is a language or language family consisting of varieties which are mutually intelligible to varying degrees. Originally the indigenous languages spoken by the Han Chinese in China, it forms one of the branches of Sino-Tibetan family of languages...

 and English Language
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 (Syllabus B) in the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination
Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination
The Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination was a standardized examination between 1974 and 2011 after most local students’ five-year secondary education, conducted by the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority . The examination will be discontinued in 2012...

, or equivalent. In accordance with the Basic Law, new recruits appointed on or after July 1, 1997 must be permanent residents of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, save for certain specified exceptions.


Officers are promoted on the criteria of character, ability, experience and prescribed qualifications. All eligible officers are considered on an equal basis. The officer selected for promotion must be the most meritorious one who is able and ready to perform duties at a higher rank.

Public Service Commission

The commission
Civil Service Commission
-Chairmen:*John Houghton MHK, 2004-date*George Waft MLC, 1996-2004*Clare Christian MLC, 1981-1982*Noel Cringle MLC, 1992-1996*Walter Gilbey, years unknown...

 is an independent statutory body responsible for advising the CE on civil service appointment, promotion and disciplinary matters. In practice, the advice is rendered to the SCS and the CSB deals with the commission on individual cases. The chairman and members of the commission are appointed by the CE. The commission seeks to ensure the impartiality and fairness in appointments to the civil service and also advises on discipline matters. In accordance with the Public Service Commission Ordinance, advice of the commission has to be sought for appointment or promotion of officers to middle and senior ranking posts (excluding the disciplined ranks of the Hong Kong Police Force
Hong Kong Police Force
The Hong Kong Police Force is the largest disciplined service under the Security Bureau of Hong Kong. It is the world's second, and Asia's first, police agency to operate with a modern policing system. It was formed on 1 May 1844, with a strength of 32 officers...

). The commission is also consulted on changes in appointment procedures applicable to civil service posts.

Independent Advisory Bodies on Pay and Conditions of Service

Three independent bodies advise the Government on matters relating to pay and conditions of service. Their members are selected from outside the Government. The Standing Committee on Directorate Salaries and Conditions of Service advises on matters affecting the directorate. The Standing Commission on Civil Service Salaries and Conditions of Service advises on the principles and practices governing the pay and conditions of service of all non-directorate staff except those in the judicial and disciplined services. The Standing Committee on Disciplined Services Salaries and Conditions of Service advises on the pay and conditions of service of all disciplined services staff except the heads of the services who remain under the purview of the Standing Committee on Directorate Salaries and Conditions of Services.

Pay policy and system

It is the Government's established policy to offer sufficient remuneration to attract, retain and motivate staff of a suitable calibre to provide the public with an effective, efficient and high quality service. In order to ensure that civil service
Civil service
The term civil service has two distinct meanings:* A branch of governmental service in which individuals are employed on the basis of professional merit as proven by competitive examinations....

 pay is regarded as fair and reasonable by both civil servants who provide the service and the public who foot the bill, the Government adopts the principle that the level of civil service pay should be broadly comparable with private sector pay. In 2003, the CSB embarked on an exercise to develop an improved civil service pay adjustment mechanism for long-term adoption in the civil service. The exercise has stemmed from the recommendations arising from the Review of Civil Service Pay Policy and System. Under the improved civil service pay adjustment mechanism, the conduct of periodic pay level surveys will be the principal means to ascertain whether civil service pay is broadly comparable to private sector pay and thus, in compliance with the established civil service pay policy. The CSB issued a consultation paper in November 2004, setting out the methodology of the pay level survey as recommended by a consultant and the proposals on the application of the survey results to the civil service. The field work of the pay level survey was to be carried out on the basis of April 2005 private sector pay, but implementation was delayed a year. In April 2007, the results were announced: 20 years after the previous such Pay Level Survey, none of the jobs in the public sector was found to be paid more than 5% above or below its private sector equivalent.

Apart from salaries, civil servants are eligible for various fringe benefits depending on their terms of appointment, rank, salary point, length of service, and other eligibility rules. Proactive steps have been taken over the years to modernise the provision of fringe benefits to civil servants. The payment of many fringe benefit type of allowances has been either ceased or tightened up for new recruits offered appointment on or after June 1, 2000 to reflect present day circumstances . In June 2004, the CSB has commenced a review on fringe benefit type of allowances to ensure that payment of civil service allowances is in line with today’s circumstances, to enhance control over government expenditure in this area, and to improve efficiency in the administration of these allowances.

Training and development

The main objectives of training and development are to equip civil servants with updated knowledge and skills, and to develop their potential so that they can continue to improve their performance and provide quality service to the public. Training and development programmes are carefully designed to enhance performance and to support the core values of the civil service. Job-related training is arranged by departments while induction and grade specific management training for general grade members are in general provided by respective grade management. Full-time and part-time courses are provided, either locally or overseas, for staff to obtain the requisite knowledge. The CSB provides robust training and development support to departments through its Civil Service Training and Development Institute. There are four core service areas: senior executive development, national studies programmes, human resources
Human resources
Human resources is a term used to describe the individuals who make up the workforce of an organization, although it is also applied in labor economics to, for example, business sectors or even whole nations...

 management consultancy service and promotion of a continuous learning culture. Senior executive development programmes include leadership development and national studies programmes for directorate and potential directorate officers. Advisory services on Human Resources Development (HRD) and succession planning are also provided. National studies programmes include courses at Mainland institutes like the National School of Administration
National School of Administration
National School of Administration can refer to:*École nationale d'administration, Strasbourg, France*École nationale d'administration publique, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada*China National School of Administration, Beijing, China...

, Foreign Affairs University, Tsinghua University
Tsinghua University
Tsinghua University , colloquially known in Chinese as Qinghua, is a university in Beijing, China. The school is one of the nine universities of the C9 League. It was established in 1911 under the name "Tsinghua Xuetang" or "Tsinghua College" and was renamed the "Tsinghua School" one year later...

 and Peking University
Peking University
Peking University , colloquially known in Chinese as Beida , is a major research university located in Beijing, China, and a member of the C9 League. It is the first established modern national university of China. It was founded as Imperial University of Peking in 1898 as a replacement of the...

. There are also local programmes on national affairs and the Basic Law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

, as well as staff exchange programme with the Mainland. To promote a continuous learning culture, an e-learning portal, the Cyber Learning Centre Plus has been launched. The comprehensive suite of learning resources and training information in there help staff learn at their own pace. The Institute also disseminates best practices in HRD through its advisory services in training needs analysis, learning strategies, development of competency profiles, and performance management systems, etc.

Performance management

Through the performance appraisal
Performance appraisal
A performance appraisal, employee appraisal, performance review, or development discussion is a method by which the job performance of an employee is evaluated typically by the corresponding manager or supervisor. A performance appraisal is a part of guiding and managing career development...

 process, staff at different levels are made aware of the standard of performance expected of them. Proper management of the process helps maximise individual performance and enhance the corporate efficiency and effectiveness of the civil service as a whole. As an integral part of the overall human resource management functions, it is a major tool in human resource planning (e.g. succession planning), development (e.g. training and job rotation), and management (e.g. confirmation, promotion, posting and disciplinary action). Performance appraisal of staff is an on-going process. While appraisal reports would normally be completed annually, regular communication between managers and staff on performance is essential. Transparency and objectivity of the appraisal process are also emphasised. To improve the system, department management is encouraged to put in place assessment panels to undertake levelling and moderating work among appraisal reports, identify under-performers/outstanding performers for appropriate action, adopt other management tools including target-based assessment and core competencies assessment, and ensure supervisors do an honest, objective and timely assessment of their subordinates. The performance management system ensures good performance and exemplary service are rewarded and given due recognition, whilst under-performers are managed, counselled and offered assistance to bring their performance up to requirement. For persistent substandard performers who fail to improve, action will be taken to retire them in the public interest. In recognition of long and meritorious services, there are the Long and Meritorious Service Travel Award Scheme, the Long and Meritorious Service Award Scheme and the Retirement
Retirement is the point where a person stops employment completely. A person may also semi-retire by reducing work hours.Many people choose to retire when they are eligible for private or public pension benefits, although some are forced to retire when physical conditions don't allow the person to...

 Souvenir Scheme. A commendation system also exists to give recognition to exemplary performance.

Staff discipline

In its original sense, discipline is referred to systematic instruction given to disciples to train them as students in a craft or trade, or to follow a particular code of conduct or "order". Often, the phrase "to discipline" carries a negative connotation. This is because enforcement of order –...

 action is taken against an act of misconduct to achieve a punitive, rehabilitative and deterrent effect. All disciplinary actions are handled promptly and in accordance with established procedures and the principles of natural justice to help enhance management credibility and staff morale
Morale, also known as esprit de corps when discussing the morale of a group, is an intangible term used to describe the capacity of people to maintain belief in an institution or a goal, or even in oneself and others...


Staff relations

There is both a central and a departmental staff consultative machinery. Centrally, there are the Senior Civil Service Council, the Model Scale 1 Staff Consultative Council, the Police Force Council, and the Disciplined Services Consultative Council. Through these channels, the Government consults its staff on any major changes, which affect their conditions of service. At the departmental level, there are Departmental Consultative Committees which aim to improve co-operation and understanding between management and staff through regular exchanges of views. There are established channels to deal with staff grievance
A grievance is a wrong or hardship suffered, which is the grounds of a complaint.-History and politics:A grievance may arise from injustice or tyranny, and be cause for rebellion or revolution....

s and complaints. Individual members of staff with problems can receive counselling, advice and help. A Staff Suggestions Scheme is run by both the CSB and departments to encourage staff to make suggestions for improving the efficiency of the civil service. Awards are given to those whose suggestions are found useful. A Staff Welfare Fund caters for the interests of staff. A Staff Relief Fund provides assistance to meet unforeseen financial needs to staff.


Consultation of civil service reform took place in March 1999. The aim of civil service reform is to make Hong Kong civil servants more flexible and prepare themselves to face the changes and increasingly demanding challenges in the years ahead and meet the demands of society.

External links

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