Civil servants in Hong Kong might have to work longer until retirement, as the government reviews the existing retirement age of 60.
It is one of the options under consideration to deal with the ageing population, along with subsidies for those who care for the elderly, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said yesterday.
"We have to introduce flexible employment terms or plans to extend the retirement age ... There is no statutory retirement age in Hong Kong but within the government, the retirement age of 60 could be reviewed," she told the Legislative Council's House Committee.
Lam said the Steering Committee on Population Policy, which she chairs, would discuss the feasibility of the option with the Civil Service Bureau. The civil service union has already approved the idea.
Any change for civil servants could have a knock-on effect on the private sector, where many employers follow government practice on the age of retirement.
European nations are already raising retirement ages to reduce pressure on social security budgets in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. In Germany, for example, the retirement age is being progressively increased, from 65 now to 67 by 2030.
Lam's committee has the job of identifying the social and economic challenges Hong Kong faces in view of the changes in the city's demographics over the next 30 years. It then has to offer possible policy solutions.
At the end of last year, some 159,656 civil servants worked for the government, excluding judges and judicial officers, ICAC officers and locally engaged staff at Hong Kong's economic and trade offices around the world.
Federation of Civil Service Unions chairman Leung Chau-ting said the suggestion was win-win for the government and civil servants.
"Many low-ranking civil servants have to retire at the age of 60 but they are still fit to work," he said. "But the pension they receive is not enough to support their families.
"If the government pays them and lets them work, they can earn enough and the government doesn't need to train new staff."
Leung said the government should implement the proposal soon because many civil servants would turn 60 in coming years.
Labour Party lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan has proposed paying subsidies to those who stay at home to care for elderly relatives. Lam said this could be an option for those not receiving the vouchers currently being given to senior citizens in a pilot scheme.
Lam said the Elderly Commission had already held preliminary discussions on Ho's proposal and that it would be passed to a committee under the Community Care Fund for study.
According to government data, public and private nursing homes with medical staff could accommodate some 3,853 residents, while there are about 270,000 people aged over 80.