Hong Kong Government Jobs Show Record High Number of Resignations, Double the Previous Year

Record Low Applications for Top Government Roles
By Danny Tang
Danny Tang
Danny Tang
August 4, 2022 Updated: August 4, 2022

Hong Kong’s civil service resignations have reached a scale not seen since the city’s handover to China in 1997.

The city’s Civil Service Bureau (CSB) recently disclosed that 10,487 civil servants left their jobs in the year 2021-2022, of which 3,743 resigned—double last year’s number, according to the Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP). Other reasons for departure included retirement, not renewing their contract, dismissal, and death.

Among those who resigned, 32 were administrative officers, which the report defines as “a prestigious government role where some go on to fill leading positions in bureaux or departments.”

Since Beijing imposed the sweeping National Security Law, Hong Kong has faced an exodus of educated workers on a scale not seen since the early 1990s, impacting the city’s many functions, especially its civil services.

The number of applicants for top government roles has also fallen to record lows, the report added.

Administrative officer positions saw about 9,700 applications in the year 2021-2022, compared to around 17,000 applications four years ago.

Meanwhile, the number of applicants for executive officer roles also fell from 25,000 in the year 2017-2018 to about 15,000 in 2021-2022, a 40 percent drop in just four years.

Pledge Allegiance or Be Dismissed

The Hong Kong government now requires civil servants to take an oath or sign a declaration of allegiance to the Hong Kong authority under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). This requirement was introduced last year and was extended to cover non-civil service employees.

The city’s Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Tsang Kwok-wai, revealed in a recent Legislative Council meeting that 129 civil servants and 535 non-civil servant government employees, who ignored or refused to sign and return the declaration, had left their government posts last year.

The Information Service Department announced on April 19 that candidates for civil service positions, starting July 1 this year, must pass a test on Hong Kong Basic Law and the National Security Law, and this will be an entry requirement for all civil service positions.

Leung Chau-ting, chief executive of the Federation of Civil Service Union, told local newspaper Ming Pao that the city’s civil servants now face uncertainty amid increased political pressures such as taking oaths. He worries that the vacancies might not be filled with the falling number of applicants for civil service jobs in recent years.

Shortage of Skilled Auditors Amid Emigration Wave

According to the Financial Reporting Council (FRC), Hong Kong’s audit regulator, the emigration of experienced staff has resulted in a shortage of qualified auditors in the city, seriously impacting its audit work.

“High staff turnover and loss of experienced staff create operational inconveniences, impact staff morale and productivity, and eventually affect the firm’s audit quality and services,” according to FRC’s 2021 annual inspection report (pdf) released on June 23.

“It is also the most commonly cited reason for audit work not being performed properly and supervision and review not being performed on a timely basis and sufficiently.”

The report said that Hong Kong is facing challenges maintaining audit staff at appropriate levels. In response to the situation, FRC recommends that firms decline engagements when they do not have the time and resources to conduct a high-quality audit.

On top of the emigration wave, the city is also experiencing a significantly higher employee turnover rate.

The city’s accounting and legal staff turnover rate reached 11 percent in 2021, a nine percent jump from the previous year, said Kelvin Wong, the chairman of FRC, in a local press briefing on June 23.

The FRC is an independent body with the statutory duty to regulate auditors of listed entities in Hong Kong. Its 2021 annual inspection report covers the financial year of Apil. 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022.

Danny Tang