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LCQ13: Low-income female employees

     Following is a question by the Hon Emily Lau Wai-hing and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (February 11):


     According to the "Women and Men in Hong Kong - Key Statistics" published by the Census and Statistics Department, nearly 420,000 female employed persons had a monthly earning of less than $5,000 in 2007.  Some community groups consider that the problem of working women earning an income which can barely meet the basic expenses of their families ("working-poor") is serious, raising concerns whether the support provided by the Government for working-poor women is adequate, and the situation will deteriorate under the impact of the financial tsunami.  In this connection, will the Executive Authorities inform this Council:

(a)  of the respective percentages of the number of working-poor women among the female labour force and the overall labour force of Hong Kong in the past three years;

(b)  whether it has studied the trend in the number of working-poor women in the past three years; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(c)  whether it had consulted the Women's Commission ("WoC") in the past three years on formulating policies to alleviate the above problem; if it has, of the mechanism in place to implement the views of WoC; if not, the reasons for that?



(a) & (b)  The concept of "working-poor" is open to different interpretations. According to indicators adopted by the former Commission on Poverty, "low-income employees" refers to employed persons aged 15-59 who work 35 hours or above per week and have monthly employment earnings less than half of the median employment earnings*.  According to the General Household Survey of the Census and Statistics Department, the number of women among low-income employees, their respective percentages in total female labour force and overall labour force of Hong Kong in the past three years are presented in the following table.

                      Share of        Share of       
                     low-income      low-income
        Number of      female          female  
       low-income   employees in     employees in
         female     total female    overall labour
Year   employees*   labour force*       force*
----   ----------   -------------   --------------
2006    135,900         9.6%             4.0%
2007    128,300         8.8%             3.8%
2008^   103,700         7.0%             3.0%

     The above table shows that the number of low-income female employees has been on a declining trend over the past three years, falling from 135,900 in 2006 to 103,700 in 2008. The shares of low-income female employees in the total female labour force and in the overall labour force have also declined from 9.6% in 2006 to 7.0% in 2008 and from 4.0% in 2006 to 3.0% in 2008 respectively. This phenomenon is probably due to the social economic growth in the past few years.

(c)  The Women's Commission (WoC), as a central mechanism on women issues, has been playing a strategic role in assisting the Government in promoting the well-being and interests of women. The WoC has been making proactive efforts in encouraging the Government to take into account the perspectives and needs of both genders when formulating policies and programmes. The WoC has also reviewed from time to time the impact of different government policies and services on women and recommended improvement measures for the respective bureaux and departments to implement and follow up. The WoC has reviewed employment-related services provided by the Government, including employment services, vocational training, retraining for employees, as well as adult and continuing education.  The WoC will continue to discuss these issues with bureaux and departments concerned. At the same time, the WoC has also made continuous efforts to empower women. It has, amongst others, launched the Capacity Building Mileage Programme since March 2004 to encourage life-long learning and a positive attitude and mindset of women. The programme covers subjects such as managing interpersonal relationships, financial management, health and other practical issues in daily life, which help enhance participants' confidence and ability in resolving problems in daily life and at work.

*  The figures excluded foreign domestic helpers.
^  The figures are provisional figures.

Ends/Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Issued at HKT 13:01


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