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Speech by SLW at 30th HKIHRM Annual Conference "Championing HR Fitness for the Next Decade" (English only)

     Following is the speech by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, at the 30th Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management (HKIHRM) Annual Conference, "Championing HR Fitness for the Next Decade", today (December 9):

Mr Mok (Mr Francis Mok, President, HKIHRM), Dr Wan (Dr Johnny Wan, Chairperson, Organising Committee, HKIHRM Annual Conference 2010), distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     It gives me great pleasure to address this 30th Conference of the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management. I treasure this opportunity to speak before a high-powered audience of human resource management professionals. I also feel rather at home on two counts. First, we share common goals in promoting good HR practices and nurturing talent for Hong Kong. Second, I have known and worked closely with the HKIHRM for a long time, in my previous capacities as Commissioner for Labour and Permanent Secretary for Economic Development and Labour and currently wearing my hat as Secretary for Labour and Welfare.

     In the era of globalisation, no economy or thriving organisation can afford to stand still. The theme of this conference - "Championing HR Fitness for the Next Decade" - therefore fits in with the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government's long-term vision of turning Hong Kong into a diversified and high value-added economy.

     Whether an economy or a corporation ticks depends much on its people - the most valuable asset of any society. This is particularly true for Hong Kong where people are our only natural resources. It follows that the Government has a key role to play in enabling and facilitating the sustainable development of quality human capital in the face of increasingly fierce global competition and a fast-changing economic landscape.

     Let me share with you what the Government has been doing to prepare our society for this protracted "war for talent" and to create an atmosphere and environment conducive to building HR fitness.

A Diversified Economic Base

     Economic opportunities go with the quest for talent in the next decade. As a relatively mature and developed economy, Hong Kong can no longer compete with regional economies on labour and land costs. We need to accelerate our transformation into a high value-added, knowledge-based economy in order to compete on quality and productivity, while leveraging on our increasing integration with the Mainland economy.

     The Government is committed to diversifying Hong Kong's economic base. As you are well aware, Hong Kong has been relying on the four traditional pillar industries, namely financial services, trading and logistics, tourism, and professional services, as the driving force of our economic growth. In the wake of the financial tsunami, we have identified six industries where Hong Kong enjoys clear advantages so that we can build on the strengths of our well-tried pillar industries. We will also enhance our business environment and step up regional cooperation on all fronts.

     The six new growth industries are: educational services, medical services, testing and certification services, innovation and technology, cultural and creative industries and environmental industries. At present, the private-sector part of these six industries directly contributes about 7% to 8% of our GDP, and employs around 350,000 people, or nearly 9.6% of the total workforce. We hope that these industries will bring new employment and economic opportunities, thus enhancing Hong Kong's upward social mobility.

     Take the development of educational services as an example. Hong Kong and Shenzhen have agreed to jointly develop the Lok Ma Chau Loop into a knowledge and technology exchange zone, with higher education services as the leading land use. Besides education, the Loop will also provide space for innovation, ecology and riverside promenades. A two-month public consultation exercise commenced last month.

     Another initiative is in the promotion of creative and cultural industries. The former Police Married Quarters in Hollywood Road will be transformed into a creative industries landmark expected to commence operations in 2014.


     Let me now go through the Government's toolbox for equipping our workforce and companies in the quest for talent. Here, education has a pivotal role to play. As you are well aware, the Government attaches great importance to education. Expenditure on education alone has increased by 18% over the past 10 years and now takes up 23.4% of the Government's total recurrent expenditure - the largest share among all policy areas.

     Our heavy investment in education is paying handsome dividends. Specifically, two of our 13 universities were ranked among the top 50 in the world in 2010 by the Times Higher Education Supplement, with another two within the top 200. In the QS Asian University Rankings 2010, the University of Hong Kong ranked first, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology second and the Chinese University of Hong Kong came fourth. It is noteworthy that some 9,300 Mainland students are studying in our world-class higher education institutions and many of them are top performers at home.

Training and Retraining

     With the rapid advance in technology, skills could become easily obsolete and what was learnt in school or at the beginning of one's career has a limited shelf life. As such, we are leaving no stone unturned in ensuring that those already in the workforce share the opportunities of continuing education and training in order to keep themselves abreast of the changing demands of the job market.

     Our skills training programmes are mainly provided through the Employees Retraining Board, the Vocational Training Council and the Construction Industry Council Training Academy. Together, they provide a wide range of courses in meeting the needs of young people and the middle-aged with lower education level, as well as apprentices and in-service elementary workers of various industries.

     To foster continuing education and promote life-long learning among our workforce, a total of $6.2 billion has been injected into the Continuing Education Fund since 2002.  So far, over 540,000 residents aged between 18 and 65 have benefited under the Fund.

Immigration and Recruitment of Talent

     Apart from seeking to upgrade the quality of our workforce, as an international, pluralistic and open economy, our door is always open to talent from all over the world. We welcome people with valuable skills, knowledge or experience to work and live in Hong Kong. In admitting talent for employment, there is no quota, nor any restrictions on employment sector. Since the reunification in 1997, over 270,000 talents and professionals have been admitted. To cast our net even wider for quality migrants, we introduced the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme in 2006. Talented people with proven ability in any area may apply to enter and settle in Hong Kong without first securing an offer of local employment. So far, some 1,700 places have been allotted under the scheme to talents from a wide array of professions, ranging from the commercial sector to arts and sports.


     Ladies and gentlemen, in an increasingly competitive global village, neither employers nor employees can afford to stagnate. The Hong Kong SAR Government will continue to play the role of an enabler to develop our human capital and help our workforce scale new heights and embrace new challenges.  

     Over the past 30 years, the HKIHRM has built up an impressive track record in enhancing professional standards in human resource management in Hong Kong. It has established itself as Hong Kong's most influential and authoritative HR management think-tank. It also serves as the cement that binds together many HR practitioners. For our part, the Government looks forward to reinforcing our partnership with the Institute to foster the sustainable development of our human capital and help our talents realise their potential.

     Let me conclude by paying warm tribute to the HKIHRM for its past achievement and sterling contribution. I wish it continued success in the many decades ahead and wish you all a fruitful conference. Thank you.

Ends/Thursday, December 9, 2010
Issued at HKT 10:51


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