A union representing rank-and-file civil servants yesterday called on the government to extend retirement age from 60 to 65, saying the extra years in the service would help them make ends meet in old age. Although it is estimated that public coffers could initially save more than HK$500 million a year if the plan is carried out, senior officers and an academic believed it would block the career path of middle-age officials. At a meeting with Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen, Federation of Civil Service Unions chairman Leung Chau-ting said that many retired rank-and-file civil servants received small pensions and keeping them in the civil service could keep them off welfare. The government estimates that HK$17.5 billion will be paid to 109,750 pensioners in the current financial year. The total pension liability exceeds HK$427.6 billion. The Civil Service Bureau estimated that about 3,400 civil servants would retire each year up to 2012-13. If these officers work for another five years, it is estimated that an annual spending of about HK$540 million would be deferred, while the government's pension liability would also be reduced as the payout period would be shortened. However, Mr Leung's proposal was given short shrift by other civil service unions. Senior Government Officers Association senior vice-chairman Philip Kwok Chi-tak said that 'having the old hands at the helm for all eternity would affect the grooming of the next generation'. James Sung Lap-kung, a public administration academic at City University, said Mr Leung's proposal was not realistic, because senior civil servants could earn more in the private sector after retirement. A spokeswoman for the Civil Service Bureau said the government had no plans to change the retirement age of civil servants.