Flexible recruitment just the job for Hong Kong

Talents are not defined by race but skills and experience and, whether local or expatriate, they contribute as an integral part of our workforce

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 November, 2017, 1:17am
UPDATED : Monday, 13 November, 2017, 5:44pm

Appointing the best person for the job is the hallmark of a meritorious civil service. As the largest employer, the Hong Kong government goes further in committing itself to eliminating discrimination on the grounds of gender, age, disability, family status, sexual orientation and race in recruitment. But, because of its bilingual policy and the Basic Law requirement of permanent residency for civil servants, the government is primarily staffed by local Chinese.

Indeed, long gone are the days when expatriates formed the backbone of the bureaucracy. That is probably why the recent news reports on the last serving batch of foreign police officers have instilled nostalgic feelings in certain quarters. In line with the localisation policy, the number of officers on overseas terms fell from some 900 in the 1990s to just 82 in September. Ten officers have already left this year and another 22 are due to retire in the next year or so. The era is expected to end in a decade when the youngest in the remaining batch, a 44-year-old superintendent, retires.

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Of the 167,857 civil servants, only 92 are still on overseas terms at present. It is just a matter of timebefore the colonial legacy comes to an end, but the need to maintain meritocracy remains unchanged. While the civil service will remain predominantly Chinese in the foreseeable future, the Basic Law has not barred foreign nationals from taking up professional and technical posts. Some civil service grades, such as flight operation officers, have already relaxed or dropped Chinese language proficiency requirements. The police force has also recruited multilingual officers from ethnic minorities.

According to a government internal survey in 2013, about 470 of the 24,690 civil servants who responded were of non-Chinese ethnicities, such as Indian, Pakistani, white and mixed. Some of them were appointed after the handover. The percentage is said to be in line with that of non-Chinese permanent residents in the working population.

Talents are not defined by race but skills and experience. Local or expatriate, they contribute as an integral part of our workforce. The city benefits by making recruitment more open and flexible.