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Speech by SLW at Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management gala dinner (English only)

      Following is the speech by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, at the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management gala dinner for the official launch of HKIHRM HR Professional Standards today (April 15):

Dear Wilfred (Wong), members of the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good evening.  I consider it a great privilege to have been invited to join this memorable and important launch ceremony.  Let me first offer my warmest congratulations to the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management (HKIHRM) on the official launch of the HR Professional Standards and its new membership scheme.

     The HKIHRM has all along been a strategic and highly valued partner of the Hong Kong Government and, in particular, the Labour Department in promoting good people management and fostering harmonious labour relations.  The professional HR standards unveiled tonight are an initiative to build up a team of highly professional human resource personnel in Hong Kong.  I commend HKIHRM for its strenuous and sterling efforts in enhancing the sustainable development of our HR professionals.

     I know that most of you are all HR experts in your own right. But allow me to venture to offer my own interpretation of the acronym "HR". The first letter "H" stands for "human touch" and "harmony". HR is no doubt a people-oriented profession. And going back to the basics, central to people management is concern for pay and benefits of employees.  Concern for "human touch" is also a step closer to "harmony" within an enterprise.

     The second letter "R" stands for "responsibility" and "responsiveness". A successful enterprise must fulfil its responsibility both as an employer and as a social citizen. At the same time, it has to be responsive not only to its clients and changing market demands but also the aspirations and sentiments of its employees.

Statutory Minimum Wage

     Speaking of pay, I would like to take this opportunity to brief you on the latest state of play on minimum wage.  I am sure that as enlightened human resource professionals, you will agree that forestalling excessively low wages for vulnerable workers is not only a significant milestone in our social policy, but also a major step in enhancing social harmony.  

     Admittedly, Statutory Minimum Wage (SMW) as a policy tool is a controversial issue.  Proponents maintain that SMW prevents excessively low wages while opponents contend that it is detrimental to a free economy and would mean fewer jobs for the least competitive.  We are fully aware that as an externally oriented economy with a linked exchange rate system, flexibility of wages and prices is crucial to Hong Kong's economic competitiveness and resilience to external shocks.  But on the other hand, safeguarding the interests of vulnerable workers and enhancing our social harmony are equally important social policy objectives.

     Our aim is to arrive at an optimal minimum wage which provides an hourly wage floor to forestall excessively low wages without, at the same time, unduly affecting our labour market flexibility, economic growth and competitiveness as well as causing significant loss in low-paid jobs.

     The Government introduced the Minimum Wage Bill into the Legislative Council (LegCo) in July last year.  A LegCo Bills Committee is currently examining the Bill.  As a milestone in safeguarding labour rights, the Bill builds on, and is consistent with, current labour laws. For example, the definition of wages, enforcement and penalty are closely aligned to those of the Employment Ordinance.

     In preparing the Bill, the Administration has undertaken an intensive and extensive engagement and consultation process with various stakeholders with a view to ensuring that the SMW regime is feasible and strikes a reasonable balance among various interests.  In particular, we have consulted the HKIHRM and drawn on your unfailing support and professional advice.  I must take this opportunity to pay warm tribute to your institute, especially your Minimum Wage Taskforce for your high-quality input.

     In tandem with LegCo's scrutiny of the Bill, the Census and Statistics Department released last month the 2009 Report on Annual Earnings and Hours Survey, which provides essential reference for setting the initial minimum wage rate.  The Provisional Minimum Wage Commission is calling for submissions of views with reference to the report, as well as other relevant statistical data, to facilitate its prudent, objective and comprehensive analyses and deliberation on the initial minimum wage rate through an evidence-based approach.  Subject to the enactment of the Bill in this legislative year and acceptance of the commission's recommendation on the initial rate, the Statutory Minimum Wage is expected to come on stream in the first quarter of 2011.

     Prior to that, the Labour Department will vigorously launch publicity and promotional activities to make sure that both employers and employees know and understand the legal provisions and their respective obligations and entitlements under the SMW regime.  Publicity materials will be prepared with illustrative cases and authentic examples drawn from different trades and industries regarding the application of the provisions.  This will certainly be an important area of work where the vast pool of professional expertise and experience of the HKIHRM can contribute significantly, not to mention the institute's painstaking efforts in promoting professional people management practices - a key factor for the successful launch of the minimum wage system in Hong Kong. I count on your continued support and co-operation as we prudently chart our way forward.  

Good People Management Practices

     On "responsibility" and "responsiveness", I cannot emphasise more the importance of "socially responsible" and "responsive" people management. We all know that "pay" matters, but "pay" alone is not enough.  After all, we all work to live and not live to work.  To help employees achieve work-life balance, more and more employers have responded to the family needs of their staff and implemented various family-friendly employment practices.  A family-friendly workplace is a higher-performing organisation as it can better attract and retain talent, boost staff morale and minimise staff turnover.  

     The Labour Department has been encouraging employers to adopt good people management with a view to fostering harmonious labour relations. Family-friendly employment practices are one kind of employee-oriented good people management measure to help employees balance the responsibilities of their work and family.  Family-friendly employment practices generally include granting special leave to meet employees' family needs, adopting flexible work arrangements and providing living support to employees and their family.

     Take paternity leave as an example.  A short period of leave taken by a male employee around the time of birth of his child can provide an opportunity for a father to nurture his infant and support the new mother with the many physical and emotional demands related to childbirth and caring for newborns.  When the employees' needs to take care of their families are relieved, they can work wholeheartedly, thus enhancing their loyalty, productivity and work performance.  Top management support together with direct and frank communication between employers and employees are essential to the implementation of family-friendly employment practices and the gradual establishment of a family-friendly corporate culture.  

     Apart from the continuing promotion of good people management and family-friendly employment practices through our network of tripartite committees and human resources managers clubs formed in different trades and industries, various exhibitions, talks and seminars, the Labour Department published a booklet last year and produced a video in January this year both featuring successful real-life examples that demonstrate exemplary family-friendly practices so as to deepen public understanding on the subject and encourage wider adoption of such practices.  


     I am sure that with a "human" touch and by adopting "human-oriented" and "responsible" people management strategies, a "harmonious" and, of course, "resilient" corporate culture will set in and provide an enterprise with a strong competitive edge in the long run.

     Before I conclude, allow me to solicit your support of the package of proposals on the methods for selecting the Chief Executive and for forming LegCo in 2012 announced by the Government yesterday.

     In formulating this proposed package, we have considered fully the views of the public, different sectors of the community and also responded to some aspirations of the public and political parties of LegCo raised during the consultation period.

     The mainstream view remains that constitutional development should roll forward in 2012 in order to pave the way for universal suffrage. If the proposed package can gain the support of the people of Hong Kong and LegCo, the democratic progress of Hong Kong can move forward and pave the way for determining the universal suffrage models for 2017 and 2020.

      May I close by congratulating HKIHRM warmly once again on its outstanding achievements and wish the institute and all of you continued success in the many years to come.  Thank you.

Ends/Thursday, April 15, 2010
Issued at HKT 19:43


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