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Saturday, Apr 13, 2024

Hong Kong customs says no plans to ease recruiting standards, after police cut criteria

Hong Kong customs says no plans to ease recruiting standards, after police cut criteria

‘So far, we consider recruitment standards for inspectors and customs officers to be relevant and suitable,’ Hong Kong Customs College commandant says.

Hong Kong’s Customs and Excise Department will not lower its recruitment standards or adjust its salary packages, the organisation has said, after hiring difficulties among the city’s disciplined services prompted police to scale back their criteria.

“So far, we consider the recruitment standards for inspectors and customs officers to be relevant and suitable. Therefore we have no plans to lower the thresholds,” Eddie Lai King-ho, commandant of the Hong Kong Customs College, on Saturday said.

The department, one of the city’s six disciplined forces, aims to recruit 90 inspectors and 170 customs officers this year.

Those hoping to become an inspector should have at least level 3 or equivalent in five subjects in the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education examination, as well as be fluent in Cantonese and English.

Candidates must also pass tests on the Basic Law and national security law, while meeting the department’s fitness and health requirements.

Eddie Lai (centre), commandant of the Hong Kong Customs College, has said recruitment standards for the department are “relevant and suitable”.

Aspiring customs officers, however, face less rigorous academic requirements but must fulfil most of the same criteria as those applying to become inspectors.

Monthly salaries for inspectors start at HK$44,840 (US$5,720), while officers receive HK$23,625.

Lai expressed confidence that customs could reach this year’s target, saying he believed jobs with the department offered diverse career opportunities, even as the city contended with a shrinking labour pool that was adding to hiring difficulties.

Hong Kong’s working population has gradually fallen since 2019, with 220,500 workers exiting the local labour market.

“Even if the number of applicants falls behind the target, we will not lower the recruitment thresholds. We will intensify promotion efforts through different channels and hope that will help,” Lai said.

Official figures showed that during the 2022-23 financial year customs recruited 189 people, comprising 44 inspectors and 145 officers. In the two years before that it, recruited 195 and 311, respectively.

However, the number of staff members quitting the department reached 111 in 2022-23, a year after 126 personnel gave their notice and a sharp increase from the 64 who resigned in 2020-21. As of November 30 last year, customs had 440 vacancies.

Lai also said the department since March had held recruitment events outside Hong Kong, including at universities in Guangdong, Hubei and Fujian provinces.

According to customs, some 100 applications were received after 1,500 Hong Kong students attended the events.

This year, applications for the role of inspector will open on May 16 before closing on June 5, with all necessary documents to be submitted by candidates no later than June 12.

The application window for the position of customs officer will remain open throughout the year.

Prospective candidates learn more about the department’s physical and health requirements during the college’s open day.

The college commandant advised applicants to avoid making any “radical” comments during group discussions, during which current affairs are discussed in English and Cantonese as one of the department’s four assessment stages.

“We emphasised that candidates should express their thoughts based on facts and not criticise others during the process,” Lai explained.

The Hong Kong Customs College on Saturday attracted 400 people to its open day, where prospective candidates could learn more about the department’s recruitment process and get advice from serving personnel.

Leong Yi-ting, 26, who currently works for the Hospital Authority as an executive assistant, said she would apply to become an inspector as she had always hoped to join the city’s uniformed forces.

“I have always been interested in customs clearance and the assessment for the role is reasonable. I came today to have a preview of the tests and see in which areas I should improve,” she said.

Hong Kong’s five other disciplined forces have also received fewer applications, with more staff members quitting over the past five financial years.

The police force recorded 217 resignations in 2022-23, the highest among the six services.

Police have eased recruitment criteria after failing to hit targets in the past three financial years. Among the relaxed thresholds are weight and height marks, as well as allowing applicants who failed public examinations to take a new Chinese and English-language written test to qualify.

The Fire Services Department saw 189 personnel resign in 2022-23, almost double the 92 logged in 2018-19.

The fire services held recruitments in Guangzhou – the capital of Guangdong province – from May 10 to 12, in a bid to hire Hong Kong students studying in mainland China. More than 100 students attended the recruitment event.


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