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Friday, June 12, 2015, 09:45

Switching over

By KRISHNA KUMAR VR in New Delhi and KARL WILSON in Sydney
Switching over
Switching over
Office workers in Sydney’s central business district. The Australian Public Service Commission has noted the evolving demands of young people entering the work force and is tailoring its recruitment message to attract better candidates. (AFP)

There was a time when a job as a government employee - a civil servant - was for life.

It offered lifelong employment and a good salary. In some countries, healthcare and educational benefits for the employees’ children were part of the compensation package.

But over the last 20 to 30 years, a job in the civil service has lost its gold-plated sheen as governments cut back on the public sector and outsource jobs to the private sector.

At the same time, amid Asia’s rising economic prosperity, young people are turning their backs on the public service for the lure of private companies, where remuneration tends to be better and promotion a lot quicker.

In rich countries like Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea, the public sector still attracts people, but it is getting harder. Even in places like Hong Kong, attracting good talent is much harder today than it was about 20 years ago.

Singapore is an exception. The public sector, which had around 139,000 staff members last year, is the biggest employer in the city-state. For years now the government’s policy has been to pay salaries equivalent to what the private sector offers — not only to attract top people but also to retain them.

Susanna Kwok, team leader at Hong Kong-based recruitment firm Gemini Personnel, says the public sector cannot provide the salary and career path to meet the growing ambitions of the younger generation.

"Peer pressure on quick success and recognition has increased considerably. Today’s job seekers want to have clear career paths, great promotion chances and good salary increments when they are choosing jobs,” she says.

In China, it has been estimated that 34 percent of the country’s civil servants are considering leaving their government jobs, according to, a Chinese human resource website.

A report by China Newsweek said between January and June last year, more than 20 officials resigned from ministry-level government agencies.

The private sector has now become the driver of job creation in China. Based on official data, private-sector jobs have grown by at least 50 percent over the past five years.

In India, poor career prospects, rampant corruption and better opportunities in the private sector are among the main reasons young people cite for avoiding the public sector.

"The needs of the 21st-century society are far more than establishing simple control or securing the state’s interests; it has a lot to do with real service and its delivery,” said Shahzad Chaudhry, a political and security analyst in a commentary in May in The Express Tribune, a Pakistani newspaper.

According to Hong Kong-based consulting firm Kelly Services, financial rewards, work-life balance and career prospects are the key factors that employees in the city consider when pursuing another job.

"Helping employees to discover meaning in work and addressing the needs of different generations are measures for enhanced employee engagement,” said the company in a report titled Is Employee Loyalty a Long-Gone Myth in Hong Kong?


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