FRESH university graduates joining the civil service may be paid 30 to 100 per cent more than their private sector counterparts. Successful candidates get between $19,860 and $33,355, depending on the grades joined. Salaries offered by the private sector range from $11,000 to $16,000. The Civil Service Bureau said it was essential to keep salaries broadly comparable with that of the private sector. 'Civil service salaries should be sufficient to attract, retain and motivate staff of a suitable calibre to provide the public with an effective and efficient service,' a spokesman said. But Dr Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, head of the public and social administration department at City University, said it was more than comparable. 'The gap has grown wider and wider over the past years,' Dr Cheung said. Existing pay rates based on education qualifications were adopted in 1979 and reviewed in 1989. An overhaul planned for later this year has raised fears of a drastic downward adjustment in entry pay level. The spokesman said: 'The commitment to undertake a qualification benchmark review was made in the context of the 1997 Policy Address. In light of developments since then, including recent financial turmoil, we are reviewing the timing of the exercise.' Despite the salary gap and unrivalled fringe benefits, government jobs are not necessarily the best options for graduates. 'Promotion prospects in the private sector are better than in the government hierarchy,' said Dr Cheung. High-flying executives and professionals are likely to earn more than their government counterparts in due course. But in times of hardship, government job security is envied by private sector employees. 'Many may have their salary suppressed or be sacked,' said Dr Cheung.