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LCQ16: Employment assistance for workers affected by automation

     Following is a question by the Hon Wong Sing-chi and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (May 18):


     Benefitting from the rapid development in information technology, quite a number of public and private bodies in Hong Kong have switched their daily operation in recent years to rely more on computers and other non-manual automation systems (eg autotoll lanes are provided in addition to the manual toll lanes at the existing toll tunnels and roads, etc).  Yet, there are voices in the community expressing the view that the aforesaid switching of operation modes has adversely affected the livelihood and job opportunities of quite a number of low-skilled workers with low education attainment.  In this connection, will the Executive Authorities inform this Council:

(a) whether the authorities had studied or assessed in the past three years which industries, job types and positions requiring low skills had been phased out due to the switching of operation modes of the aforesaid bodies; if they had, of the details and the specific data; if not, the reasons for that;

(b) whether the authorities have any targeted plan to help the aforesaid affected workers switch occupation or seek new jobs; if they have, of the details and number of such plans; if not, the reasons for that; and

(c) whether they know the number of the aforesaid workers who had been assisted by the Employees Retraining Board (ERB) in the past three years in switching occupation and seeking new jobs, and whether the authorities have reviewed the effectiveness of ERB's courses in this respect; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



(a) In studying the specific employment and manpower situation and considering the implementation of appropriate measures to address the needs of the industries within their purview, the bureaux/departments concerned would make reference to a wide range of statistics and research studies.  Such studies include the Manpower Projection, which assesses the future manpower requirement and supply as well as manpower balance by educational level at the macro level and the manpower surveys conducted by the Vocational Training Council which forecast the near-term manpower requirements for specific sectors.

(b) The Manpower Development Scheme administered by the Employees Retraining Board (ERB) provides training courses and services to local residents aged 15 or above and with education level at sub-degree or below.  So long as the admission criteria are met, people who are unemployed or wish to change their career may enrol in more than 800 courses covering 30 industries currently offered by ERB.  ERB provides full-time placement-tied courses, part-time generic skills courses as well as Skill Upgrading Scheme Plus (SUS Plus) courses for its target clientele.  Job placement support services are provided to trainees of full-time placement-tied courses for a period of three to six months to help them secure employment.  ERB launched the SUS Plus since 2009-10 to provide training for in-service workers of various industries.  The Scheme aims to enhance the industry-specific professional knowledge and skills of in-service workers and enable them to acquire multiple skills in different areas.  With a view to helping those in employment to gain a better understanding of other industries through training in order to seek for a change in career and expand their employment opportunities, some of the SUS Plus courses are also open to applicants who are not working in the respective industries.  

     ERB has set up a series of Industry Consultative Networks (ICNs) with the aim of strengthening communication with industries and gauging the views of employers, employees and professional bodies on the manpower and skills requirements of different industries and job types for the development of suitable training courses and services.  In 2011-12, ERB plans to provide 130 000 training places and has reserved resources to provide an additional 30 000 places if necessary.  ERB will closely monitor the condition of various industries and adjust the allocation of training places flexibly to meet demand.

     The Labour Department (LD) provides various specialised employment programmes targeting job seekers who have employment difficulties or are required to change careers, including those with low educational attainments and skills levels.  The Employment Programme for the Middle-aged provides employers with training allowances so as to encourage them to employ job seekers aged 40 or above and to provide them with on-the-job training.  As such, these job seekers can acquire the essential job skills.  Since the programme was launched in 2003 and up to the end of April 2011, a total of 51 364 placements were secured through the programme.  The Work Trial Scheme enhances the employability of job seekers who have difficulties in finding jobs by providing them with one-month work trials.  During that period, the participating organisation will provide on-the-job training to the participant, and appoint a mentor to help him/her to acquire the new job skills and adapt to the new working environment.  On satisfactory completion of the work trial, the participant will be paid an allowance.  Since the scheme was launched in 2005 and up to the end of April 2011, a total of 3 476 job-seekers were placed for work trials.  LD also launched a two-year Pilot Employment Navigator programme in December 2010 to provide the unemployed with in-depth and personalised employment consultation services. A financial incentive will be paid to those who successfully secure and stay in employment.  As at the end of April 2011, 2 103 job seekers have enrolled in the programme.

(c) ERB does not keep any statistics on the number of workers mentioned in part (a) which it has assisted in changing their careers and seeking new jobs.  ERB recorded an overall annual enrolment of about 100 000 in 2008-09 and some 110 000 in 2009-10 and 2010-11 for its training courses.  The placement rate of trainees was maintained at 80% or above in the past three years which met the benchmark set by ERB.   ERB has since 2010-11 commissioned independent research agencies to collect the feedback of employers and employees on ERB's courses and services.  The survey results revealed that over 80% of the interviewed employers are satisfied with the overall performance of the trainees, whereas over 80% of the interviewed trainees consider that the courses are generally helpful for seeking employment and have aroused their interest in pursuing continuous upgrading.

     Following the completion of its strategic review and the relaxation of the eligibility criteria of its training courses, ERB has taken on new roles and responsibilities to provide more comprehensive and diversified training courses and services for the local labour force.  The Administration keeps under review the effectiveness of the training courses offered by ERB.  As indicated by the aforesaid survey results, we consider the work of ERB in this respect effective.

Ends/Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Issued at HKT 11:35


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