Civil service revamp benefits couples

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 February, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 February, 2000, 12:00am

Some civil service couples will enjoy double housing allowances under a radical revamp for recruits.

The Civil Service Bureau is to adopt the private sector practice of giving cash allowances instead of housing benefits.

Under the package, officials who earn $47,970 a month or more will be entitled to a monthly cash allowance regardless of their family status.

The allowance will replace various housing schemes.

About 25,000 civil servants are receiving payments ranging from $2,290 to $39,060 at present.

But officers cannot apply for housing schemes if their spouse enjoys housing benefits paid by the Government, public organisations or private companies.

The Government believes it would be unreasonable to deny officers benefits because of family status.

But Confederation of Trade Unions legislator Lee Cheuk-yan could not understand why the Government would alter its stance on double benefits.

'Husband and wife live in the same flat. They should not be given double payments,' Mr Lee said.

The Government dropped double housing benefits in 1981, saying it was wrong to give the same payment twice to one family.

Mr Lee also fears other officials will be paid less if the Government gives allowances to more couples but keeps the funding unchanged.

Senior Non-Expatriate Officers' Association chairman Dr Leung Chi-chiu argued that the cash allowance should be seen as part of the pay package.

'If both the husband and wife work for the Government, they are two individual employees. What's wrong with paying them what they deserve?' Dr Leung asked.

But he was concerned with proposals to scrap the staff down-payment loan of up to 30 per cent of flat prices, saying it would deal a blow to the property market.

'Even if we have a monthly allowance, we won't be able to buy our flats without the down-payment.' He also said that extending the period of allowance from 10 years to 20 would mean lower monthly payments, which might not cover housing costs.

The Government also suggested scrapping housing payments for officers who had served more than 20 years and who earned $28,075 a month or less. They can only apply for public housing in a special queue.

In a paper outlining the reforms, officials said the new package was designed to work on the same level of funding as the present system.