Hong Kong civil servants get a pay rise whenever salaries in the private sector go up, and when the economy flounders they are expected to share the pain, too. But this is not always the case, as shown in the latest annual pay adjustment for the 170,000-strong staff. Instead of dovetailing the pay trend figures to slash wages for different ranks, the government has offered a freeze across the board for the coming year. Amid a protracted Covid-19 battle and sweeping political changes fuelled by the national security law, the last thing Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor wants is to rock the boat with a pay cut in the run-up to a possible second term. But it reinforces the perception that government employees are immune from the fallout of the epidemic. Lam’s cabinet is said to have balanced all relevant factors. The economy, officials say, has shown unfavourable and encouraging factors. Although the unemployment rate is still high, there is a clear trend of recovery. “At the same time, the efforts and contributions of civil servants at all ranks in fighting the epidemic in the past year are worthy of recognition,” a government spokesman said. The rationale may not convince the majority, especially those who take issues with the performance of the government. Hong Kong expected to extend civil servant pay freeze for another year amid struggling economy While it is true that some frontline staff members have been working hard during the epidemic and the city is still in relatively better shape than many others, the government is also to blame for some strategy and implementation flaws, thereby prolonging the inconvenience and sufferings for many. Equally debatable is the consideration of recent and future economic trends. The annual civil service pay adjustment is generally seen as a reflection of the changes in the private sector over the past year. Arguably, any ongoing and future trends shall be covered in the next review. The mechanism allows the government to consider factors such as its fiscal position and staff morale. But for decades, there were only a handful of times when the adjustments deviated from pay trend figures, including the decision last year to ditch a rise of up to 2 per cent in favour of a freeze. Given stability weighs heavily, it is essentially a political move to spare civil servants a pay cut.