Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Public Service
Meeting on 23 March 1998

Review of Qualification Benchmarks


This paper informs Members of the background to and rationale for conducting a review of qualification benchmarks.

Determination of civil service salaries

2.Our pay policy is to offer sufficient remuneration to attract, retain, and motivate staff of a suitable calibre to provide the public with an effective and efficient service. Such remuneration should be regarded as fair both by civil servants and by the public which they serve and should be broadly comparable with private sector practice.

3.In order to ensure comparability, we have adopted an education qualification method to compare jobs. This approach is necessary as some public sector jobs have no equivalents in the private sector. Even where there are related functions, there are often large differences between the nature of the public and private sector jobs. We have to adopt a means to compare the public and private sector that can effectively accommodate most jobs.

4.Under the education qualification method, all civil service grades are grouped on the basis of qualifications required for appointment. The starting pay for entry ranks in each qualification group is then set by reference to the remuneration of private sector jobs having similar appointment qualifications and performing similar functions as the entry ranks in that qualification group. In essence, this involves establishing benchmark pay for each qualification group. Other factors relating to the nature of the job would also be taken into account in determining the starting pay of each rank.

5.This method was first used in 1979 on the advice of the Standing Commission on Civil Service Salaries and Conditions of Service. The method was reviewed in 1989 and found still to be the most appropriate means to compare jobs in the public and private sectors. We believe this approach is still the best available. A description of this and possible alternative methods we have considered using in the past is at Annex.

Reasons for review

6.Because of economic developments, changes in educational standards and, most recently, the growth in the number of university graduates, the relativity between the starting pay of entry ranks in the civil service and that in the private sector changes over time. In order to ensure that civil service salaries remain broadly comparable with private sector practice, a review of the qualification benchmarks needs to be conducted at regular intervals. Previous reviews were conducted in 1979 and 1989. In view of the developments which have taken place since the last review, we intend to invite the Standing Commission on Civil Service Salaries and Conditions of Service to commence another qualification benchmark review in 1998/99. Members will be kept informed of developments as the review proceeds.


7.Mrs Philomena Leung, Principal Assistant Secretary (Civil Service)3 is responsible for the subject matter. She may be contacted on telephone number 2810 3100.

Civil Service Bureau
16 March 1998


Methods of linking civil service and private sector pay

  1. Educational qualification method

    Under this arrangement, a range of jobs in the private sector for which a stated educational qualification is a normal requirement for appointment will be identified. The pay for all civil service grades requiring a similar qualification for appointment will be set by reference to the pay for these private sector jobs. In practical terms, this involves establishing a benchmark salary point for each essential educational qualification on the basis of which the starting pay for the relevant entry ranks in the civil service will be determined.

  2. Core grade method

    Under this arrangement, a number of civil service jobs which could be fully and fairly compared with jobs in the private sector will first be identified. The grades for these jobs will become "core grades" to which all other civil service grades would be linked according to certain defined criteria. The pay for those private sector jobs which are comparable with these core grades would then set the civil service pay for the core grades and all linked grades.

  3. Grade by grade factor analysis method

    Under this arrangement, the external relativities of each civil service grade are reviewed individually. Private sector jobs having certain functional similarity, but not necessarily analogues, with the particular civil service grade and normally held by persons possessing similar educational qualifications are identified. They are then compared with the relevant civil service jobs by a method employing the factor-point approach. The average pay of those private sector jobs scoring factor-points in the same range as those scored by the civil service jobs are used to set the pay for this particular grade.