Legislative Council Panel on Public Service
Meeting on 26 May 1997 Development of a Multi-skilled General Support Service


To inform Members of the Administration’s proposals on developing a multi-skilled general support service in the civil service.


2. Traditionally the duties of the clerical and secretarial staff in the civil service are clearly demarcated. A multitude of grades, namely, Clerical Officer, Clerical Assistant and Office Assistant, are employed to provide clerical support at different responsibility levels, whereas secretarial services are primarily provided by the Personal Secretary and Typist grades. With increasing office automation, such restrictive demarcation of duties is no longer conducive to office efficiency. Indeed, more clerical staff are now engaged on word-processing and computing duties, while the secretarial staff are also increasingly involved and are better equipped to provide general office support to their principals.

3. The Administration has recently completed a comprehensive review on the work of the clerical and secretarial grades and concluded that there is a need to streamline existing grade structures and rationalise office practices in order to make better use of human resources. A package of measures have been developed to restructure the clerical and secretarial grades to provide a multi-skilled office support service.


Reducing the Establishment of Typists

4. Some 3000 Typists are, at present, employed in government departments, with around 1200 working in secretarial pools and the remainder deployed alongside clerical staff to provide typing support in general offices. Because of the nature of government business, there is an operational need to retain some Typists in secretarial pools to provide fast and extensive typing services. The remaining Typist posts in these offices (and the corresponding number of officers) will be regraded as Clerical Assistants as the pay scales and appointment requirements of the two ranks are comparable. Accordingly, steps will be taken to gradually phase out the use of Typists in general offices and offer the staff the option of transfer to the Clerical Assistant grade. From the staff development viewpoint, Typists so transferred would be exposed to a wider variety of duties and enjoy the prospects of advancement in the clerical grades.

Phasing Out the Office Assistant Grade

5. The Clerical Assistant and Office Assistant grades recruit candidates of similar educational backgrounds and have the same starting pay (MPS 1). Clerical Assistants enjoy a higher pay maximum (MPS 10) than that of Office Assistants (MPS 6) because of their level of responsibilities. Operationally, it is more cost effective to employ a smaller number of Clerical Assistants than there are Office Assistants to strengthen the office support services, while at the same time devolve the manual duties of Office Assistants to the Workman II rank. It is therefore proposed to phase out the Office Assistant grade and replace existing posts by Clerical Assistants or Workmen II, as appropriate. The majority of the Office Assistants (some 2800 in strength) are qualified for appointment as Clerical Assistants on regrading of these posts; others can be retained in their existing grade and replaced by Workmen II when they leave the service.

Developing a Multi-skilled General Support Service

6. With the phasing out of Typists in general offices, it is necessary to train and equip the clerical staff to provide the full range of word-processing and, where necessary, basic computing support services. Financial provisions will be sought for the allocation of resources to strengthen staff training and the provision of computer equipment to enable them to assume their enhanced role.

7. Subject to the advice of the Standing Commission on Civil Service Salaries and Conditions of Service, it is also proposed that an incremental credit be awarded to those clerical staff who have attained specific levels of proficiency in both English and Chinese word-processing to encourage and recognise increase in productivity.

Staff Redundancy

8. These proposals are not expected to give rise to any staff redundancy. All Typists are qualified for transfer to the Clerical Assistant grade, subject to the availability of vacancies. The majority of the Office Assistants would also be eligible to be considered for transfer to the Clerical Assistant grade, while others can be retained in their existing grade until they leave the service.


9. Staff and departmental management are now being consulted on these proposals. In the light of their comments, the advice of the Standing Commission on Civil Service Salaries and Conditions of Service will be sought.


MAY 1997

Last Updated on 21 August 1998