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LCQ11: Youth unemployment

     Following is a question by the Hon Ip Wai-ming and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (January 27):


     According to the information of the Census and Statistics Department, while the overall youth unemployment rate gradually dropped last year from 28% for May to July to 21.6% for September to November, it has remained a double-digit figure.  Some organisations have pointed out that even young people with high academic qualifications faced unemployment problem in recent years and such a situation has roused public concern.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) regarding the statistics on the overall youth unemployment rate for each of the past three years, of the respective numbers of unemployed young people with qualifications at sub-degree, higher diploma and bachelor's degree or above levels;

(b) given that some countries (e.g. Germany and Austria) have implemented apprenticeship programmes to address the problem of youth unemployment in their countries, whether the Government has any plan to amend the Apprenticeship Ordinance (Cap. 47) to meet the actual employment needs of young people, as well as increase the current number of designated trades under the Ordinance (including service industries such as beauty care and hairdressing), so as to facilitate employers to hire more young people who are under training or have completed training, so that they can undergo workplace attachment and undertake studies at the same time, with a view to facilitating their long-term career development and alleviating the problem of youth unemployment; and

(c) whether the authorities have any plan to enhance employment support and counselling for young people who are socially isolated because they are unemployed for a long time, as well as living the hermit life, or implement other measures to encourage them to integrate into the community again; if they have such a plan, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
Reply :


     The unemployment rate of young people aged 15 to 24 is often higher than the overall unemployment rate.  This phenomenon, however, is not peculiar to Hong Kong and happens in economies at various stages of economic development.  The unemployment situation of young people in Hong Kong has improved in recent months.  The unemployment rate for the 15-19 age group fell by 1.5 percentage points to 20.1% in October-December 2009, while the unemployment rate for the 20-24 age group fell by 1.0 percentage point to 10.5% in the same quarter.

     My reply to the questions of Hon Ip Wai-ming is as follows:

(a) According to the results of the General Household Survey conducted by the Census and Statistics Department, the numbers of unemployed youths (aged 15-24) with post-secondary education for 2007 and 2008 were 10,600 and 11,000 respectively.  The corresponding figure for 2009 is still being compiled.  Nevertheless, the figures for the first three quarters of 2009 were 11,700, 12,000 and 23,400 respectively.  A notable increase in the number of unemployed youths in Q3 2009 was observed, owing to the large number of fresh graduates joining the labour market.

(b) The Vocational Training Council (VTC) administers the "Apprenticeship Scheme" in accordance with the Apprenticeship Ordinance (Ordinance).  The Ordinance provides that an employer is required to enter into a contract of apprenticeship with a youth aged between 14 and 18, employed in a designated trade and has not completed apprentice training.  The contract has to be registered with the Director of Apprenticeship.

     Voluntary registration under the Ordinance is open to the apprenticeship contracts of apprentices aged 19 or above employed in designated trades or apprentices in non-designated trades.  Under the "Apprenticeship Scheme", regardless of whether they work in designated trades or non-designated ones, apprentices should receive systematic on-the-job training which includes day-to-day practical work and relevant educational courses, so that they can undertake studies while undergoing workplace attachment.  Upon completion of apprenticeship, most apprentices have continued to serve in the respective trades.  

     Currently, the "Apprenticeship Scheme" covers around 120 designated and non-designated trades in an array of sectors including automobile, electrical machinery, construction and jewellery, with relevant posts such as mechanics, technicians, project assistants and designers.  The non-designated trades take up about two-thirds of the total number of trades under the "Apprenticeship Scheme", reflecting the industries' interest in participating voluntarily.   

     Apart from the "Apprenticeship Scheme", VTC has been providing a more flexible "Modern Apprenticeship" programme on a pilot basis in recent years.  The programme aims to equip the youths with training and practical experience in order to enhance their employability for the service industries.  The industries covered by the programme include beauty care, hairdressing, tourism, retail and customer service.  In the 2009-10 school year, about 3,300 apprentices receive training under the "Apprenticeship Scheme" and "Modern Apprenticeship" programme.

     The Administration will continue to implement the "Apprenticeship Scheme" and other programmes that meet the needs of employers and apprentices so as to offer youths with different paths of on-the-job training.  It will also closely monitor the situation and consider the need for adjustments to the trades covered by the "Apprenticeship Scheme" as well as amendments to the Ordinance.

(c) To enhance the counselling, training and employment support for youths with special needs, including those "hidden youths" facing employment difficulties, the Youth Pre-employment Training Programme and Youth Work Experience and Training Scheme (YPTP¡DYWETS) of the Labour Department and the Community Investment and Inclusion Fund (CIIF) jointly launched a pilot project in late 2008.  The project capitalises on the social and community networks of participating organisations and the use of innovative approaches.  It flexibly integrates the pre-employment and on-the-job training elements of YPTP¡DYWETS with the social capital developmental strategies advocated by CIIF, with a view to reaching out to youths with special needs (including "hidden youths" facing employment difficulties), offering them services and assistance, cultivating among them positive attitudes and extending their social networks, so as to provide them with opportunities for sustainable development in the employment market.

     Seven proposals with durations ranging from one to three years have been approved under the project.  The proposals would provide a total of over 2,200 pre-employment training places and have been gradually rolled out since mid-2009.

     In collaboration with its training bodies, YPTP¡DYWETS launches special training programmes tailor-made for youths with special needs (including hidden youths).  Personalised career counselling, case management service and a wide variety of pre-employment training courses are available under these programmes.  

     Moreover, to help non-engaged youths aged 15 to 20 better understand their career preferences, the Employees Retraining Board (ERB) has collaborated with VTC since the third quarter of 2008-09 to organise courses under the pilot "Youth Training Programme" (YTP).  YTP provides vocational training and foundation skills training while cultivating among trainees positive attitude to life and self-confidence.  Upon completion of the courses, training bodies would provide trainees with job placement support services for six to nine months to assist them to secure employment or refer them for further study.  Starting from the second half of 2009-10, ERB has invited other training bodies to participate in YTP to offer more courses for non-engaged youths with different backgrounds.

Ends/Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Issued at HKT 12:55


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