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LCQ17: Youth employment

     Following is a question by the Hon Wong Kwok-hing and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung, in the Legislative Council today (October 28):


     The Government has recently announced that the seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate from June to August this year was 5.4%.  However, the unemployment rate for the 15 to 19 age group in the period from May to July was as high as 28.7%.  Regarding the issues of the youth seeking employment and starting their own business, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the current total number of programmes set up by the Government to assist the youth in seeking employment; the respective numbers of places and participants of the various programmes in each of the past three years, and the employment rates of the participants after they had completed the programmes concerned;

(b) whether the Government is currently implementing programmes to provide financial assistance to the youth to start their own business; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(c) given that many countries in the world are currently implementing dedicated programmes to help the youth to set up their own business, whether the authorities will consider setting up a loan fund, so as to support the plans of the youth to start their own business?



     It is a global phenomenon that the youth unemployment rate is substantially higher than the overall unemployment rate.  Young people are more susceptible to unemployment because of a variety of factors, including their limited work experience and low academic qualifications and skills level.  With the gradual recovery of the local economy, our youth unemployment rate has dropped from 28.7 % for the period from May to July, 2009 to 25.7% for July to September, 2009, with the number of jobless falling from 16,300 to 15,300.

     Our reply to the different parts of the question is as follows:

(a) The Government has implemented a host of employment programmes to promote youth employment.  They include:

(1) Youth Pre-employment Training Programme and Youth Work Experience and Training Scheme

     The Youth Pre-employment Training Programme (YPTP) and Youth Work Experience and Training Scheme (YWETS) administered by the Labour Department (LD) provide training and employment support to young people aged between 15 and 24 with educational attainment at sub-degree or below level.  With effect from the 2009/10 Programme Year commencing in September, 2009, LD has further enhanced and integrated the two youth programmes to provide young people with through-train services which include pre-employment training, workplace attachment, on-the-job training, subsidy for off-the-job training courses and examinations, tailor-made training projects and case management services.  There is no specified limit on training capacity of the two youth programmes which will admit all eligible young people.

     Statistics on the number of trainees of YPTP and YWETS in the past three Programme Years are as follows:

                 Programme Year
          2006/07    2007/08   2008/09
          -------    -------   -------
YPTP       6,484      5,103     5,274
YWETS     10,578      8,211     8,335
Total     17,062     13,314    13,609

     According to the findings of annual placement surveys conducted on trainees who completed YPTP for the past three Programme Years, excluding trainees who decided to pursue further studies, the average placement rate of the trainees was around 70%.  On the other hand, LD commissioned in 2008 the Hong Kong Polytechnic University to conduct a survey on the employment status of trainees of YWETS for the 2006/07 Programme Year, and the findings revealed that around 80% of the respondents were in employment at the time of survey.

(2) Programmes under the Employees Retraining Board

     After relaxation of the eligibility criteria for training courses of the Employees Retraining Board (ERB) in December 2007, people aged 15 to 29 with educational attainment at sub-degree or below level may enroll in ERB's full-time placement-tied training courses.  These courses are placement-oriented and trainees are provided with job placement support services (generally for a period of three months).  Moreover, they may also enroll in part-time or evening non-placement-tied generic skills training courses.

     To help non-engaged youth aged 15 to 20 better understand their career preferences, ERB has collaborated with the Vocational Training Council since the third quarter of 2008/09 to organise courses under the pilot Youth Training Programme (YTP).  The YTP, offering 2,000 places each year, provides vocational training and foundation skills training while cultivating among the trainees a positive attitude to life and self-confidence.  Upon completion of the courses, training bodies are required to provide trainees with job placement support services for six to nine months to assist them to secure employment or refer them for further study.

     Since 2007/08, the overall placement rate of trainees who graduated from full-time placement-tied courses (including the YTP) has reached 80%.

     Statistics on the number of trainees aged 15 to 29 enrolled in ERB's training courses (including the YTP) over the past three financial years starting from 2007/08 are as follows:

             Number of trainees aged 15-29

         Placement-tied  Non-placement-
         course          tied courses     Total
         --------------  --------------   -----

2007/08 (December, 2007 to March, 2008)*

courses      1,178            334         1,512


Programme#    526             --           526

courses      6,680           2,384        9,064

Total        7,206           2,384        9,590

2009/10 (up to September 30, 2009)

Programme     374             --           374

courses      6,121           2,242        8,363

Total        6,495           2,242        8,737

* The target group of ERB has been expanded to cover people aged 15-29 as from December, 2007.
# The Youth Training Programme (YTP) is only offered to non-engaged youth aged 15 to 20.  Under the YTP, "pursuing further education" can be an alternative to "job placement" for trainees after graduation.

(3) Special Training and Enhancement Programme

     The Special Training and Enhancement Programme (My STEP) implemented by the Social Welfare Department (SWD) provides employment service, including counselling and structured motivational or disciplinary training, to Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) able-bodied unemployed recipients aged between 15 and 29 to help them rejoin the workforce or return to mainstream schooling.  My STEP was first implemented in October, 2006 in Tin Shui Wai and Yuen Long on a pilot basis, and was subsequently extended to the New Territories and Kowloon districts.  SWD launched in October, 2009 a new phase of My STEP to provide employment service to at least 700 CSSA recipients of the above category.

     Statistics on the number of participants of My STEP and participants who successfully secured employment or returned to mainstream schooling are as follows:

                            My STEP
                    1st phase          2nd phase
                 (October 2006 to  (October 2007 to
                  September 2007)   September 2009)
Number of
participants           68                 611

Number of
having secured
employment or
returning to
schooling (%)       42(62%)            330(54%)

(b) The two youth programmes of LD offer some basic training courses on entrepreneurship, including entrepreneurship theories, marketing, management skills and business law.  Moreover, LD has set up two youth employment resource centres in the name of "Youth Employment Start" (Y.E.S.) to provide one-stop service on employment and self-employment to young people aged between 15 and 29.  As at September, 2009, there were 26,535 members registered with the two Y.E.S.

     Through a multifarious approach, Y.E.S. assists young people to understand their own capabilities and inclination towards self-employment.  The two centres provide the following self-employment support services:

(1) Career assessment

     Y.E.S. has developed a comprehensive career assessment tool to help young people with aspirations for starting their own business to understand their career interest, personality, emotional intelligence and entrepreneurship potentials.  Supported by the findings of career assessment, career consultants will assist young people to evaluate different options for career development, and offer them guidance on available careers and training opportunities in the light of their backgrounds and personal qualities.

(2) Training on self-employment

     Apart from inviting business leaders to share their successful experience in setting up business with young people, Y.E.S. organises from time to time training programmes to equip young people with skills on self-employment and business management.  In the first nine months of 2009, Y.E.S. organised 60 courses related to self-employment, including the preparation of business proposals and legal liabilities, financial management and marketing strategies pertaining to business operations.  These courses attracted over 2,800 participants.

(3) Mentorship scheme and professional consultation

     Y.E.S. invites entrepreneurs and business leaders to serve as mentors to offer advice and guidance in business start-up to young people on a voluntary basis.  Furthermore, Y.E.S. arranges business professionals to provide consultation services to young people on legal and accounting problems that may be encountered in day-to-day business operations.

(4) Office facilities

     Young people have free access to a full range of office facilities such as business workstations, conference room and design corner with professional software/hardware at Y.E.S.  This will facilitate them in running their business.

     In its two years of operation, Y.E.S. has helped many young people understand their own interest and capabilities, make good use of the training and consultancy services offered by Y.E.S., establish their business networks and make their first steps in starting their own business.

(c) From the operation experience of Y.E.S. and the observations of some parents, teachers and social workers, young people aged between 15 and 19 generally lack the knowledge and experience in business operations and financial management because of their age and limited exposure.  Taking into account the fact that young people usually have limited financial means, it may not be desirable for them to set up their own business by taking out loans.  In case of business failure, they may be unable to repay the loans and thus may create vicarious financial burdens on the part of their family members.  The Government will continue to provide training and self-employment support service to assist young people who wish to pursue self-employment or set up their own business.

Ends/Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Issued at HKT 15:30


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