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LCQ19: Low-income employed women

     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 23):

Question :

     According to the "Women and Men in Hong Kong - Key Statistics" published by the Census and Statistics Department, the monthly earning of nearly 400 000 female employed persons was less than $5,000 in 2009. Some community groups consider that the recent inflation has aggravated the burden on the public and the Government should be concerned about the well-being of working women in poverty. In this connection, will the Executive Authorities inform this Council:

(a) of the respective percentages of the number of working women in poverty in the female labour force and the overall labour force in Hong Kong in the past five years;

(b) whether they have studied the trend in the number of working women in poverty in the past five years; if they have, of the details;

(c) whether they had, in the past five years, drawn up policies to ease the hardship of low-income women; if they had, of the details;

(d) whether they had, in the past five years, consulted community groups to understand the needs of low-income women; if they had, of the details; and

(e) given that the Transport Support Scheme launched by the Labour Department required that an applicant must be an employee who works 72 hours or more a month, or a job-seeker (an unemployed or an employee intending to change jobs) who intends to work for 72 hours or more a month, whether the authorities have examined from the perspective of gender mainstreaming if such eligibility criteria will aggravate the situation of women in poverty; if they have, of the details?



(a) and (b) There is no widely recognised definition of "working poor". If reference is made to the relevant indicator suggested by the former Commission on Poverty for measuring the number of people engaged in low-income jobs, ie employed persons aged 15-59 working 35 hours or more per week and with monthly employment earnings less than 50% of the median, the number of low-income employed females and its percentage in the female labour force and in the overall labour force in Hong Kong over the past five years are at Annex. Statistics suggest that the number and proportion of low-income employed females have gradually dropped since 2006.  

(c) People who cannot support themselves financially may apply for the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme to meet basic living expenses. Other Government assistance to the disadvantaged and poverty alleviation measures, such as the short-term food assistance service, are also provided on a need basis irrespective of gender.  

     Providing employment assistance and enhancing the competitiveness of the labour force is an important strategy to tackle poverty. In this regard, women are also a target of our assistance. Apart from seeking suitable jobs through the Job Centres of the Labour Department (LD), women can participate in a series of employment programmes administered by the LD, eg the Work Trial Scheme, the Employment Programme for the Middle-aged, and the Pilot Employment Navigator Programme which offers personalised employment consultation services to unemployed persons.  These programmes provide tailor-made support to individual job-seekers having regard to their actual needs.

     At the same time, the Employees Retraining Board (ERB) also provides diversified training courses and services having regard to market needs. Many of them are suitable for females. In fact, ERB courses are well received by female trainees and about 75% of the enrolled trainees in the first three quarters of 2010-11 (ie April to December 2010) are female. Moreover, ERB has launched the Smart Living Platform to provide a free employment referral platform for graduates of training courses relating to home services. The jobs concerned include post-natal carers, care workers and domestic helpers, which are mainly taken up by female trainee graduates.

(d) The Women's Commission, as the central mechanism for advancing women's interests and well-being, maintains close communication with the women's groups and reflects their views to the Administration. Over the past five years, by organising fora, conferences and sharing sessions, the Commission met with women's groups from time to time to discuss a wide spectrum of issues. Relevant bureaux and departments had participated as appropriate. Issues discussed included the need of low-income women in the areas of education, childcare services, health services and employment, etc. Besides, bureaux and departments also consult the public, including women's groups, direct on major proposals and initiatives from time to time as appropriate.

(e) The Government has proposed that the existing Transport Support Scheme be replaced by the new Work Incentive Transport Subsidy (WITS) Scheme. In formulating the eligibility criteria of the new scheme, we have already applied the concept of gender mainstreaming. We have thoroughly considered the perspectives and needs of both genders, as well as the policy objective of encouraging employed persons in low-income households to stay in employment. The enhanced WITS Scheme sets the working hour requirement at 36 hours per month, which will enable more women working part-time to benefit from the scheme.

Ends/Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Issued at HKT 16:26


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