Veronica Lin, 17, Hong Kong International School
The starting monthly salary of police officers in Hong Kong is
HK$22,410, while for firefighters, it’s only HK$19,780. This difference implies that, while both jobs can be life-threatening, somehow the lives of police officers and the duties they carry out are more valuable than those of firefighters.
Just like police officers, firefighters must pass fitness and vision tests, as well as possess a certain level of fluency in both Cantonese and English. After being hired, firefighters also have to attend the Fire Services Training School for up to 26 weeks.
In Hong Kong, firefighters not only respond to fire alerts, they also provide ambulance services to citizens. In the past year, the Fire Services Department received 34,320 calls regarding fire incidents, and 757,901 calls requesting an ambulance. In fact, every day there are around 2,076 fire engines or ambulances roaming the streets to help those in need. The role played by firefighters in safeguarding the city should not be overlooked or taken for granted.
By comparison, the life of a police officer seems safer, especially when you consider that there have been far fewer gang-related incidents and violent protests in recent years. However, things seem to have become more dangerous for firefighters, with two of them losing their lives in the fire in Ngau Tau Kok just two months ago.
In addition to the dangers posed by a fire, there are numerous hidden health risks of being a firefighter that most police officers don’t have to worry about. Apart from suffering severe burns and other injuries, firefighters could be exposed to cancer-causing chemicals when they battle a blaze.
There’s no reason why firefighters should not receive the same benefits as police officers. The government, as well as local residents, should appreciate the courage of our firefighters, and the fact that they’ll continue to risk their lives to save people from deadly dangers for years to come.
Wincy Leung, 19, University of Hong Kong
You might think it’s unfair that police officers are paid more than firefighters when both jobs can be dangerous. But if you look at their pay scale and job duties, they might explain why police should receive more benefits.
Across the world, firefighters are generally paid less than the police and receive fewer benefits. In Hong Kong, the monthly salary of a senior police inspector can reach HK$79,470, while firefighters are offered up to HK$40,755. Additionally, there are far more recreational establishments and welfare for the police force compared to those for the fire services department.
In 2015, five retired firemen and a retired ambulance worker were asked to vacate their living quarters after the Housing Authority rejected their applications for public housing under the Civil Service Public Housing Quota Scheme.
But there is a reason for these differences in pay and benefits. The police force seems to take up duties that incur far greater pressure.
It is extremely difficult for police to maintain law and order. They face a lot of challenges, ranging from robbery to terrorism. In any major city, safety is the number-one concern because it provides a secure place for people to live and creates a business-friendly environment. Hence, police officers deserve better benefits.
For instance, during the Mong Kok disturbances in February, some protesters attacked police who were there to prevent any trouble. Some officers were injured when protesters threw bricks at them. Firefighters don’t have to deal with this type of thing.
Also, police need sufficient manpower to safeguard the city. Higher salaries are crucial to attract new recruits and ensure the experienced officers don’t quit.
Undoubtedly, the disasters firefighters deal with are cruel, but they are not deliberate attacks on firefighters. And unlike police officers, firefighters do not need weapons to protect citizens – and themselves – from danger.